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Fallen Brides: Mimiru — first draft (complete)

OtherSideofSky Mar 16th, 2015 (edited) 16,870 Never
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  1. Case 2: Mimiru
  2. "Gift"
  3. By Hatsugase Machina
  4. Translated from the Japanese by OtherSideofSky (othersideofskytranslations.blogspot.com)
  5.  
  6. Gift
  7. /gift/
  8. noun
  9. 1. A blessing. An ability. Something bestowed.
  10. 2. Poison.
  11.  
  12. Thus do children learn the ways of life: The child raised receiving harsh judgment learns to judge harshly; the child raised amid animosity learns the necessity of rejecting others; the child raised the object of envy learns baseless guilt; the child taught tolerance beyond its years learns patience; the child raised receiving justified encouragement learns self-confidence; the child praised as it grows learns gratitude for its life; the child raised in fairness learns the spirit of justice; the child who received selfless consideration learns piety; the child raised in awareness of its connections to others learns the value of the self in society; and the child raised amid the love of fellows learns the love that reside in all creation.
  13.  
  14. —Extract from The Teachings of the Philosopher Arc Treis, Nadokie Publishing
  15.  
  16.  
  17. In any age, there are people called "prodigies": Boys who, at eight years old, understand treatises that even adults struggle to read; children who perform advanced medical techniques at barely more than ten; girls who, at fourteen, make unprecedented discoveries that change people's way of life completely. These are only extreme examples, but I haven't the time to list more.
  18.  
  19. Such children, despite the fact that they have not yet reached an age one can call "mature," are the equals of any adult. They give free reign to the talents granted them.
  20.  
  21. How then do adults — no, all the people around them — view these boys and girls?
  22.  
  23. Some consider them special beings, residents of another world unconnected with themselves. Others see their rare talents and think to make use of them for their own ends. Still others see them as objects of adoration, regardless of their age, and in some cases even worship them. There are also those who reject them as the unique mixed in amongst the commonplace, foreign objects in a miniature garden, but in general people's reactions seem to fall into these three types.
  24.  
  25. Well, here's the problem: among the three types of people I just listed, is there anyone who views these boys and girls as "boys" and "girls"? It's true that they possess rare abilities that astonish their elders, and they make conspicuous use of their talents. The people around them acknowledge that. As possessors of talent, it's not unusual for them to be regarded as more than human. For the "have-nots," that way of thinking is inevitable.
  26.  
  27. But I'd like you to pause a moment and consider: When everyone views them like that and showers them in praise, don't they overlook something important?
  28.  
  29. That before they are beings of a different world, before they are able prospective right-hands, before they are objects of adoration that possess rare abilities, those "boys" and "girls" are individual, human children, born from the loins of individuals, who by nature will always desire the warmth of their parents and of others.
  30.  
  31. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  32.  
  33. Mimiru Miltié.
  34.  
  35. If you ask any citizen of the nation of Lescatié about the owner of this name, seven in ten will proudly recite her accomplishments, two will describe her actual state in somewhat crude terms, and one will look disgusted and grumble complaints about her.
  36.  
  37. "A matchless magician."
  38.  
  39. "Divinely-inspired intellect."
  40.  
  41. "A pink little angel."
  42.  
  43. Along with nicknames like these, you will be told her activities and achievements in numerous fields with a good deal of embellishment. But even if you were only to view a record of her career, that would be more than enough to convince you of her greatness, and her ability, which from an outsider's point of view could even be said to be of a different order from that of others.
  44.  
  45. At the age of three she had memorized the letters and pronunciation needed for magical incantations, and at the age of five she had mastered all elementary spells. Her practical ability grew conspicuously at the greatest institute of magic in Lescatié, the College of Sorcery, which had been monitoring her talents and recruited her, and at nine years old she prevailed against the then-number two in the magical duels sponsored by the College. A year later she defeated number one as well, and it is said that she has remained undefeated until the present day. She is now twelve.
  46.  
  47. And it wasn't only magical ability with which the heavens had endowed her. Just as she had fully acquired language at the age of three, she possessed intellect beyond her years in other areas as well. Not long after she was admitted to the College of Sorcery, she finished reading all the intermediate books of magic kept there, and a year after that she read through a variety of documents, including advanced books of magic as well as volumes on strategy and tactics. A year after that, she was writing treatises based on what she had read. Even in the annals of the Order, she holds the record as the youngest full-fledged magician in history, and some say that her record will never be broken. Between then and the present day, she has left her name on several records of magical war and monster suppression, along with a number of exceptional achievements.
  48.  
  49. An especially famous anecdote of her activities comes from the war to repulse the amazonesses who inhabit the forests on Lescatié's borders. The amazonesses surpass humans, even adult men, in average physical and magical strength, and while their individual skill was impressive, they make group combat their specialty. Just ten years old at the time, Mimiru was able to see through their escape routes through this country where successive generations of magic guides had been at a loss how to proceed by mapping the terrain with an "Eye in the Sky." She then used the "Mirror-mist" spell, rarely used in ordinary battle due to its significant disadvantages, so that the terrain, with high humidity and little wind, would work only to the advantage of her allies, and successfully repulsed the amazonesses with the minimum military and magical force. It is said that her words to the College of Sorcery's ruling council following the repulsion, that "it is not only sorcery one ought to study," prompted self-reflection in the College of Sorcery at the time and hastened improvements to its curriculum.
  50.  
  51. And right now, this young girl genius whose ability is several orders of magnitude greater than that of the other sorcerers in the College of Sorcery and who serves as the lynchpin of Lescatié's magical strategy, is...
  52.  
  53. "—Delicious!♪"
  54.  
  55. Grinning broadly, her mouth filled with the fresh cream of the "Sacred Parfait," which vies for the title of most delicious in the entire nation. The place is the cafe Loumède in the neighborhood of the great cathedral, known as a favorite of the church's female soldiers. It's a shop she's fond of visiting when there's no work for her at the College of Sorcery and she's able to make some free time. The "Sacred Parfait" she is now scooping into her mouth is one of the cafe's specialties, known for the refreshing aroma of herbs it leaves in the mouth, the fine flavor of the white chocolate layered as a sauce over the herb ice cream, and the crisp texture of its maize flakes. Naturally, it is one of Mimiru's favorite dishes.
  56.  
  57. Mimiru worked her spoon with a complacent smile on her face, as if she had not a care in the world. She shoveled the pale-blue solid of the mint ice cream, its color mixing the blue that stood for political astuteness with the white that stood for moral rectitude, into her mouth, quickly followed it with a scoop of the baked corn sweets, and took a bite. That alone was enough to put a look of warm relief on her face and send a little shiver of delight through her body. No human could remain unmoved by such a delicious flavor. On that point, Mimiru shared the same feelings as ordinary people.
  58.  
  59. As Mimiru was bringing the umpteenth scoop of cream to her mouth, a heavy, damp sound like a tree collapsing resounded in the main street. She did not so much as glance in that direction, and this time took a scoop of the herb ice cream. Even without checking, she was well aware what made that sound on this street, and at this hour.
  60.  
  61. "...Should I invite Ms. Sasha again? I doubt it would do any good..."
  62.  
  63. Mimiru muttered to herself in a manner unbecoming her years, while across the street a horse-drawn carriage gaudily adorned with ornaments patterned after myths that the church taught to children clattered past. Probably someone highly-placed in the church had sent a messenger to Sasha Folmoon, who was Mimiru's own senior. Or perhaps they had gone themselves. As if that would make any difference.
  64.  
  65. After all, she — Mimiru's illustrious predecessor — had something to protect. Something she wanted to protect. Now that she had made up her mind, it would probably be more difficult to change her mind than to freely manipulate the Egnati Stone, which stood in the center of the city and which legend had it could only be moved when the fate of the world approached a turning point. You must have something better to do than waste precious time on such things, she caught herself thinking. Ensuring employment for the poor and improving the labor environment, for example. Or correcting income disparity... Having thought thus far, realized that such a thing was absolutely impossible in this country as things stood, and couldn't help letting slip a sigh. It was absurd to expect that much here. Everyone was wrapped up in defending their own station, and forgetting to act as a people. The power to correct that was not in this country. By all rights, someone ought to take the lead and manage things, but...?
  66.  
  67. "...Oh, honestly."
  68.  
  69. Having ended up depressing herself, Mimiru shook her head from side to side to clear it. She tended to get lost in thought whenever she was on her own. She had a plan, in a sense, but it had only gone as far as a proposal. And she was well aware that it was likely to be received not with a storm of praise, but with a wave of scorn. At the age of twelve she understood that often, no matter how justified she was, the mere fact of her youth was enough to cut down her power to persuade and make opposition easy to stir up.
  70.  
  71. The more she thought, the more Mimiru was forced to accept that Lescatié was at an impasse. It was at an impasse, and everyone was turning a blind eye. The taxes taken at every opportunity to support the sunny society of nobles and clergy, which boasted the second most advanced systems of military preparation and education in all the nations of the church; the destitution of the poor classes, who spent their days scrimping and saving; other paths blocked by the coercive forces of the Chief God's creed, the church, and the state, which forced people to act out "desirable" roles and to assimilate themselves with the parts they played (as she thought this, Mimiru understood that she herself was such a person). She had overheard her father and mother discussing a rumor than resistance organizations were being formed. Perhaps she might end up having to suppress them under the label of monster suppression. Or else the "shadow corps" in the service of the state might "restore them to the path of righteousness." Either way, she couldn't see anything particularly good in store, at least as far as her own feelings were concerned.
  72.  
  73. ...Well, I know I'm in no position to speak, given that I receive support from such people myself, but...
  74.  
  75. Mimiru shook her head again with a disgusted sigh that seemed to leech the flavor out of the first-class parfait she had been eating. Such grim imaginings always depressed her. Why did such dark thoughts have to come to her in her long-awaited break time? The carriage a moment before was the cause — they might be the ruling class that shaped the nation's present predicament, but she couldn't possibly speak ill of the upper echelons of the church. Any objection to them would be treated as practically a rebellion against God. The reality of it was religious fanatics and the villains who inhabited Pandemonium... How did it make her feel to not only know a bit of those schemes, but to have understood them — no, to have been able to understand them?
  76.  
  77. That nervous irritation, unbecoming her age, was turning even the refreshing flavor of mint bitter. Even though she had gone to all the trouble of finding time to visit her favorite cafe and eat her favorite treat, she couldn't help spoiling her own fun. But then, if someone had asked her what was wrong, she couldn't have said that anything really was. The present state of things certainly wasn't her fault, and the ruling class had their own reasons for what they did. Even if she thought up a plan and made a proposal, she wouldn't be able to change anything. And in the first place, her reason for making such a proposal would be the irritation that had spoiled her wonderful sweets time. It would just be her throwing a tantrum. Such things might be all very well for everyday situations, but there were limits... Or so she told herself, but it was hard to say if she was really getting through.
  78.  
  79. "Speaking of which, I haven't been to see big brother yet, have I?"
  80.  
  81. The aftertaste of mint, which had now almost entirely vanished, caused her mind to drift to thoughts of a soldier serving in Lescatié's vaunted Order of Holy Knights. Thoughts of the only person that she, an only child, called "big brother" — Elt. She didn't know his surname. She didn't even know if he had one. As for his abilities as a soldier, Mimiru doubted whether he would be able to match an officer-class monster, to say nothing of those that possessed real power. He was that sort of youth.
  82.  
  83. And yet he treated Mimiru, who was powerful enough to strike down officer-class monsters in a single blow and to fight even truly powerful monsters to a standstill, just like a child. There was something about that she just couldn't stomach, so against her better judgment she'd snapped back at him. But in response Elt had just chided her without even getting angry. That had exasperated Mimiru, and she had ended up leaving him with a sharp parting remark and walking out... although she had since become a regular at the Order's barracks. But she wouldn't be going today. It wasn't as if she really needed to, but... not going felt somehow unsatisfying.
  84.  
  85. After a little thought, Mimiru paid her bill and was soon racing along the stone-paved street towards the barracks.
  86.  
  87. "Look — Lady Mimiru is eating a parfait alone."
  88.  
  89. "You're right. I suppose her ladyship keeps to herself..."
  90.  
  91. All the while trying not to pay attention to the end of the callous comments she could hear from her surroundings.
  92.  
  93. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  94.  
  95. It was several years ago that she'd become acquainted with Elt. She hadn't even known his name back then. She'd just happened to overhear some grumbling about Lescatié's poster-hero.
  96.  
  97. "As I thought, separating Wilmarina from that brat was the right decision."
  98.  
  99. "Yes, it seems so. We couldn't possibly leave a child of Lady Wilmarina's exceptional ability in company with some nobody from who-knows-where. Her being a 'Hero' will serve the whole country, after all."
  100.  
  101. "Precisely. A mere servant trying to be my daughter's companion — the nerve of that boy!"
  102.  
  103. Wilmarina Norscrim. One of the heroes who served in Lescatié's Order of Holy Knights, and talented woman who boasted ability unequaled in the nation at the tender age of seventeen. Mimiru and the others couldn't hold a candle to her military exploits, and the people's love for her was such that there were some who became overcome with emotion and burst into tears at the mere touch of her hand. It was also common knowledge that she never missed her daily training in order to polish her abilities, and it was an everyday thing in this country for mothers to admonish their children by saying "Don't you know Lady Wilmarina is working hard every day to drive the monsters from this world?" Wilmarina was such an ideal hero that even Mimiru, who had been recruited to join her in suppression operations at times, felt overawed in her presence. And she had had to be forcibly separated from a servant boy...?
  104.  
  105. Wilmarina's father, who was a high-ranking priest, and another man, a leader of the Order of Holy Knights. Their conversation went round and round in Mimiru's head — she had been on her way to return materials she had been using for a treatise to the Order court. Now that she thought back, it wasn't a complete surprise. It was true that a faint tinge of unease existed in the determined expression that Wilmarina the hero sometimes wore. That unease always vanished soon after, so completely that Mimiru had thought it was all in her head, but...
  106.  
  107. It was also true that a different interest had sprung up inside Mimiru. An interest in something that should by all rights have more excited girls a year or two older than she — a love story.
  108.  
  109. What sort of person was this boy who had captured the heart of Wilmarina the hero and wouldn't let it go? Mimiru had tried to picture him as she turned the first page of a romance novel and absentmindedly perused the letters on it. During her break time, all by herself, of course. But she just hadn't been able to picture a man to suit Wilmarina, who was practically a national symbol. She could picture a servant — his position — because her own parents had originally been such, but when she tried to imagine that beside the hero... She just couldn't see it.
  110.  
  111. "...Oh, finished already."
  112.  
  113. The romance novel Mimiru had just finished reading was another story of two lovers burning with passion separated due to the difference in their social standing. Still, she certainly wasn't in love herself, so it only registered as somebody else's problem. Using a stepladder to return the book to its high shelf and starting on her way back to the College of Sorcery, Mimiru decided to forget the subject for the time being. After all, it was just a silly story in any case, and she didn't particularly enjoy spreading rumors — especially when it was gossip that could only  be a danger to her.
  114.  
  115. It was several days later that Mimiru's thoughts returned to the subject, after witnessing a clear change in the expression of Wilmarina's eyes when she saw the register of the names of those newly admitted to the Order of Holy Knights. After that Mimiru had reviewed the histories of all the newly-recruited soldiers, and had finally learned the name of the one who even now held captive the heart of the hero the nation loved and respected.
  116.  
  117. Elt.
  118.  
  119. If a person's status wasn't high enough to merit a surname, even belonging to the Order of Holy Knights was not sufficient to ensure they would be granted one. That would only happen once they had risen to a post of sufficient rank, or else once they had established a suitable military record. And as Mimiru had thought, he had no surname. Surely it was only natural that he had been considered unsuitable for a hero who served as a symbol of the nation, and whose father was a high-ranking priest. "An idol must be set on a suitable podium and coated in a hard lacquer." Mimiru recalled having once read such a line.
  120.  
  121. What sort of person must he be, to seek the soul inside the lacquered idol? Mimiru, who watched the investiture of the new Holy Knights by the bishop from her seat in the front row, had ascertained his personal appearance.
  122.  
  123. A youth quietly but clearly singled out by his blazing red hair. He wasn't exactly what you would call handsome, but there was something attractive about his intrepid countenance. Training was easily perceptible in his taut body, even through the magnificent ceremonial armor emblazoned with the arms of Lescatié. Rather than joy at having succeeded in becoming a knight, his eyes showed a strong determination... or so it seemed to Mimiru. With further training, he would probably become a fine knight.
  124.  
  125. ...But...
  126.  
  127. He would likely never be able to walk at Wilmarina's side. A person of ordinary ability who works hard can beat a genius who doesn't, but Wilmarina and those around her were, without exception, geniuses who worked hard. And would the prelates let someone like him near the hero the nation idolized? No. Even if they were to meet by chance, their positions as "hero" and "soldier" would prevent them from meeting as childhood friends.
  128.  
  129. Mimiru secretly sympathized with Wilmarina. Separated couple might transcend time and fate to reunite in old fairy tales, but reality was less kind to dreams, and the wall that time and circumstance had raised between the two was now practically a sheer cliff.
  130.  
  131. Still, there was perhaps one chance in ten thousand, or a hundred million, that they might one day meet as equals. But even if that did happen, how long would it take...? It would probably be impossible while Wilmarina's father was alive, to begin with. Still, it was certain that Mimiru, even as she thought such things, had developed an interest in what sort of person this "Elt" would turn out to be.
  132.  
  133. But then an event occurred that caused Mimiru to revise her estimation of Elt for the worse. It was a training exercise that took the form of mock combat among the newly-enlisted knights. Elt's marks there were among the lowest in the entire Order. It was true that Mimiru hadn't actually witnessed the exercise — at the time she had been unable to attend due to her work for the College of Sorcery — but she had overestimated his ability because he was a man with whom a hero had fallen in love, and this result was enough to make her emotions take a turn towards despair.
  134.  
  135. So, the nation's hero has her heart set on such a weak man...
  136.  
  137. With that thought, she became somehow unable to forgive herself for having once taken an interest in such an person, and at the same time unable to forgive this man, who even now brazenly kept his place in the hero's heart, beyond his ability or position, for existing. That concealed irritation had probably been what caused her to pay a visit to the barracks.
  138.  
  139. She marched rudely into the barracks, pushed her way through a crowd of people who smelled of sweat — some of them noticed Mimiru and made way for her of their own accord — and came to a stop, striking a daunting pose, in front of Elt, who, as she had expected, was performing routine maintenance on his weapons. The first words she had spit at Elt, matching his gaze — he had paused in the work he was doing on the sword in his hand — were still a topic of conversation among his fellow knights.
  140.  
  141. "Hey, you've got some nerve joining the Order of Holy Knights with skills like yours. I don't know why you joined up, but I don't think you're cut out to be a knight."
  142.  
  143. Actually, what they discussed was more likely Elt's reply. While the dumbfounded knights of the Order looked on, he kept his gaze fixed on Mimiru and quietly opened his mouth.
  144.  
  145. "...Ah, umm... Little Mimiru, isn't it? Don't you think it's rude to say something like that to a person you've just met?"
  146.  
  147. Perhaps those words struck a nerve, but in any case Mimiru had gone red in the face and run out of the barrack without saying anything more. Being spoken to in the tone of one admonishing a child, including being called "little," was a fresh experience to her and it felt extremely — how to describe it? — embarrassing. Having ended up, to her own surprise, fleeing under enemy fire, Mimiru swore an oath to herself as she made her hurried way home.
  148.  
  149. She swore that the next time they met, she would not flee. And that she would show him just how right and amazing she was, and force him to correct his estimation of her.
  150.  
  151. This was the pair's first contact. Since then, Mimiru telling Elt to quit the knights and working hard to show off her own magical ability, and Elt for his part lightly brushing off her attempts had become an almost daily routine.
  152.  
  153. As an aside, although one would certainly come to Elt's name on the list of marks for that training exercise faster if one counted from the bottom, that was because it had been a condition of the exercise that each combatant use a weapon other than their specialty. I will add that when Elt was using his preferred weapon, his ability was among the best of the newly-enlisted knights.
  154.  
  155. Children are more sensitive to the subtleties of others' feelings than their elders suppose.
  156.  
  157. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  158.  
  159. To prepare against monster attacks, the Order of Holy Knights had established several barracks throughout the city. The barracks where Elt was stationed was located just off the main street, and his unit's training grounds were nearby.
  160.  
  161. "Let me see, right about now, big brother should be... just getting done with Ms. Mercè's training, I suppose."
  162.  
  163. Sure enough, the barracks were crowded with soldiers just back from training. The average woman might grimace at the characteristic stench of sweat, but Mimiru's many suppression expeditions had thoroughly accustomed her to such smells. She wouldn't have been able to engage in magical combat if she let a little dirt bother her — a magician's job was not limited to reciting spells in safe zones.
  164.  
  165. Passing through the midst of the soldiers exhausted by intense drilling under Instructor Mercè, who handled her halberd so manfully that she seemed to have forgotten her own sex, Mimiru sprang into Elt's view. The other soldiers in the barracks paid no particular attention to her behavior, and made no move to greet her. They all recognized her presence as a part of everyday routine — Oh, I guess that guy's going to get told off again; That guy must be a real masochist to take Lady Mimiru's insults like that every time; He doesn't look like he minds it half as much as he'd like us to believe. It was just another scene of everyday life in the barracks.
  166.  
  167. "Big brother!"
  168.  
  169. When Mimiru arrived before Elt, he was sitting on a bench and performing maintenance on the weapons used in training. Most of the types of weapons used by soldiers of the church — long sword, lance,  battle axe, mace, and so on — were leaning against the wall near him. The weapons to his right were practically sparkling, and those on his left were dirty with soil and grime. The weapons arranged on his left side were numerous enough that it was probably impossible for him to service all of them in his break time. Actually, it was doubtful he could do it even if he took all day.
  170.  
  171. "Hm? Oh, little Mimiru. Welcome."
  172.  
  173. Elt paused in his weapon maintenance and turned to face Mimiru. In spite of the difficult maintenance he was performing after being worked hard all day, there was hardly a trace of exhaustion in his voice. Considering that training had left him out of breath at first, Mimiru supposed that he had made remarkable progress. Regardless, she was merciless in her assessment.
  174.  
  175. "You got beaten black and blue again, huh? Looks like you're still pretty weak, big brother."
  176.  
  177. "You sure are harsh. I'm making progress every day, you know?"
  178.  
  179. "How so?"
  180.  
  181. "Well, I can last several minutes longer in a bout with the instructor."
  182.  
  183. "What good does making the fight last longer do you? In battle, boasting about what a long time you were fighting seems pretty dumb."
  184.  
  185. "Ha ha ha. I guess you're right. Still, I've made a lot of improvement controlling my lance and my body compared to when I enlisted."
  186.  
  187. "So what! It doesn't matter how much you improve if you can't defeat your opponent! At least save that kind of talk for after you manage to score a point off Ms. Mercè. Honestly... You'll be no good in an emergency in this state."
  188.  
  189. If this conversation had been between a brother and sister, the nearby soldiers would doubtless have been looking on in amusement. But soldiers who have been called "weak" by an operations planner generally feel, to use a vulgar expression, "snubbed." The words dent their egos like a charging minotauros or ogre dents a wall. It can, after all, be interpreted as a notification of their removal from the battle plan.
  190.  
  191. Elt accepted the words calmly, and retorted as if nothing was the matter. Doesn't this guy understand how serious what she's saying is? The thoughts of his fellows were almost audible.
  192.  
  193. "Anyway, I can't send you out to the front in this condition, so get stronger, okay? If you can't even make Instructor Mercè's shoulder touch the ground, you'll end up dying when you fight a monster!
  194.  
  195. "Well, if it comes to that, I, 'little' Mimiru, will get 'em with my magic! Zapapow♪"
  196.  
  197. Elt responded to Mimiru's confident boast with a smile.
  198.  
  199. "Thanks for your concern, but I'll be getting stronger anyway."
  200.  
  201. Mimiru, frustrated that Elt appeared unfazed by anything she said to him, shouted one last jibe at the top of her lungs, turned on her heel, and departed.
  202.  
  203. "If that's how you feel, hurry up and get strong enough that I won't have to worry! Or maybe you'd rather give up on the Holy Knights and scurry off home?"
  204.  
  205. That was just about the most sarcastic thing she could find to say to Elt, who probably had no home to return to. Consciously or unconsciously, she had struck at his weak point, but Elt evaded even this surprise attack.
  206.  
  207. "No need to worry about me. But if you get lonely, feel free to come here any time!"
  208.  
  209. Elt couldn't tell if his voice had reached Mimiru, but going by the fact that her footsteps seemed to become rather louder, he decided that it had, and resumed the "voluntary" weapon maintenance that her visit had interrupted.
  210.  
  211. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  212.  
  213. After Mimiru left the barracks, a soldier who had also been receiving training there and whose original social standing had been close to Elt's came to retrieve a weapon.
  214.  
  215. "Oh, 's fixed! Thanks! I 'ad no idea what was wrong wiv it!"
  216.  
  217. "Dust had built up and hardened where the blade joins the hilt. I had a hard time getting it out. How long's it been since you last serviced it?"
  218.  
  219. "Hmm. Don't rightly remembah!"
  220.  
  221. Elt flashed a wry smile at his comrade, who laughed heartily. This soldier frequently came to Elt with requests to fix his weapons. "I can use em, but when it comes to fixing em, well..." Was his usual refrain. Every time there was a campaign, all his comrades, himself included, worried that he would go to an early grave.
  222.  
  223. "Ah, me lovely little battle axe!"
  224.  
  225. While gazing at the newly-repaired weapon with the eyes of a parent being reunited with a daughter who had been left with relatives, the soldier unexpectedly broached a new topic.
  226.  
  227. "It's not right, Elt."
  228.  
  229. "What isn't?"
  230.  
  231. The soldier jerked forward and stared Elt straight in the eyes.
  232.  
  233. ""Ow can ya talk so normally ta the Lady Mimiru? If somebody saw ya like that they'd think ya were brothah 'n' sistah."
  234.  
  235. "'The'?"
  236.  
  237. At that answer, the soldier heaved a sigh. Didn't he understand the seriousness of the situation? Another soldier, whose specialty, if one had to say one way or the other, was more brains than brawn, came up from behind Elt, who did not understand why he was being sighed at, and cut into the conversation.
  238.  
  239. "Mimiru Miltié. In terms of practical ability, she's the current number one at the College of Sorcery, the organization that trains magicians for the magic combat units out country is so proud of. And they say she's number one by a wide margin, at that. Her single-handed repulsion of the 'Burst Gang,' followed by the amazoness expulsion, the banishment of the echidnas, and so on, she established a record of distinguished military service that common soldiers like us can't hold a candle to. On top of that, she's got a hand in planning some of the operations we carry out. I can't imagine how Elt finds the nerve to speak to her so familiarly; especially being so rude as to call someone who might as well be a divine being as far as we're concerned 'little.' He really ought to receive her respectfully and take a step back to show deference."
  240.  
  241. Elt nodded his comprehension. He'd known she was powerful, and he'd heard such things from her own mouth any number of times, but when her achievements were explained to him plainly like this and seeing the reaction of his fellow soldiers made them more convincing. The ordinary way he spoke to her could not help seeming strange.
  242.  
  243. "Well, I know how powerful she is, and that she's quite a bit smarter than me, but..."
  244.  
  245. Even her harsh criticism of him seemed almost natural when he considered that she had been blessed with such rare talent, and had performed feats to match. But to Elt, that information was completely meaningless. It would make no difference to him even if she were actually to perform great magics before his eyes, or to demonstrate thought and knowledge two or three steps ahead of his own.
  246.  
  247. "Somehow or other, when I'm talking with little Mimiru, even though I'm just an unruly orphanage brat, I end up feeling strangely like I'm dealing with a child trying to act like an adult. Maybe she's forcing herself to overreach. Like, even though she wants to act like a spoiled child, she's refusing to let herself. The sort of lonely person who can't be honest with her feelings, you know?"
  248.  
  249. "..."
  250.  
  251. Elt was sighed at by all his fellow soldiers. How could anyone have such an impression of the cornerstone of the holy nation of Lescatié's war potential?
  252.  
  253. Without piercing the surface, one cannot know the substance. Yet most behave as if they know by the outward appearance alone.
  254.  
  255. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  256.  
  257. There was a place Mimiru visited in secret after finishing her work at the College of Sorcery. Not to say that it was a secret hideout or anything like that, as was so common among children of her age. Mimiru had nothing of the kind, and her destination was a place well known to many people in Lescatié. Even so, Mimiru didn't want her visit to be known. On the contrary, she wanted to keep it as unknown as she possibly could. She was certain that if anyone found out, it would become a source of malicious rumors. "What is Lady Mimiru doing in a place like this?" they would ask.
  258.  
  259. The slums, a corner of what was known as the "poor quarter" where rows of uneven and conspicuously rickety buildings stood in contrast to the luxurious and beautiful metropolis of capital district. That was Mimiru's destination. The cobbled streets were in a poor state of repair, and the whole place had the unsanitary atmosphere of a campground. It was not a place to inspire fondness in ordinary sensibilities. But Mimiru had made her way there countless times, merely to view a certain scene from far off.
  260.  
  261. "..."
  262.  
  263. There, at the end of Mimiru's gaze, was a little square before a small church, where a group of children her own age or perhaps a bit younger were playing.
  264.  
  265. "Merche! This time you're it!"
  266.  
  267. "Nine, eight, seven, six... Wait for me!"
  268.  
  269. "Welcome to our store.♪"
  270.  
  271. "I'd like one of these, please.♪"
  272.  
  273. Sasha Folmoon's church in the slums doubled as an orphanage, and the boys and girls Mimiru was watching were the children lived there.
  274.  
  275. A boy with raggedly cut brown hair was racing mischievously around the square, playing tag with a group of boys whose hair was close-cropped. Meanwhile, a group of girls led by a girl with brown hair gathered into two bunches and another with long, bronze hair were enjoying themselves playing house. There were smiles on their faces as they used bits of the trash scattered about the slums, worn-out ribbons and the like, as goods in a make-believe shop, and exchanged shells and bits of tattered paper in place of currency.
  276.  
  277. "..."
  278.  
  279. I'm jealous. Mimiru tried to suppress the emotions welling up inside her. That mysterious warmth was something she wished for, but could not have. Even just watching them, she could feel the itchy, sour, somehow comfortable atmosphere... But it was a distant feeling that had nothing to do with her. Even if, for the sake of argument, the opportunity to obtain that feeling had appeared before her that instant, she probably couldn't have brought herself to trust in it. And even if she did obtain it, she would probably continue to doubt. Why would anyone do something like this for me? What do they expect to get out of it? No doubt, unable to fit in with that atmosphere, she would end up growing dissatisfied and agonize over whether this was really what she had wanted as those feelings accumulated inside her.
  280.  
  281. She was different from those boys and girls. They didn't know anything. Nothing at all. Mimiru knew what the children did not, and yet she could not stop wanting what they had...
  282.  
  283. "..."
  284.  
  285. Her longings still unfulfilled, Mimiru trudgingly made her way home. Both her parents should already be home by this time. Already the sky was madder red. It was growing late for a child to be out walking alone. Besides which, properly speaking, Mimiru could not stay in a place like this for long.
  286.  
  287. "...Hey! This time..."
  288.  
  289. "...ah, dress up..."
  290.  
  291. Mimiru, the children's joyous cries still rising at her back, recited an incantation under her breath. A fist sized light whooshed into being on her palm. She chanted another spell, and the light split into five, twined around her fingers, and just like that became a set of rings that emitted light.
  292.  
  293. It would probably take those children five or ten years to learn even this elementary spell. And that was assuming that they were frugal with the time they spent sleeping and playing and devoted themselves entirely to the study of magic. But could she, who at roughly the same age as those children could perform it effortlessly, say that she was really more blessed than they...?
  294.  
  295. "..."
  296.  
  297. Still harboring oozing, unclear feelings, Mimiru extinguished the rings of light on her fingers.
  298.  
  299. Thus ability undermines the heart. If an unwanted gift purports to be a divine miracle, ought the god who performed it truly be revered?
  300.  
  301. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  302.  
  303. "...Your highness."
  304.  
  305. "Really, there's no need to be so formal... my dear little black goat.♪"
  306.  
  307. "...It is I who should be asking your highness to stop referring to me in that way. And I would prefer not to eat while correspondence remains unread."
  308.  
  309. "No way!♪ I mean, you're the one who won't call me anything but 'your highness.' And I prefer not to sit alone in a high tower evaluating heroes while there's still cake uneaten."
  310.  
  311. "But the example it sets for your followers—"
  312.  
  313. "You know, you only need to worry about tiny details like that when my followers are watching. The only ones here are me and you, so it doesn't matter what kind of example I set."
  314.  
  315. "Your highness... No, Lady Deruella—"
  316.  
  317. "Drop the 'lady' too. You know you're different from the children I've changed."
  318.  
  319. "...Deruella."
  320.  
  321. "Very good!♪ Now, Lucella, you said you wanted to talk to me?"
  322.  
  323. "Finally getting to the point? Well...
  324.  
  325. "Deruella, about this invasion. There's someone I'd like you to let me face."
  326.  
  327. "Someone other than the little hero and the princess? Those two are off limits, you know? I'm going to 'expand their horizons' myself.♪"
  328.  
  329. "Of course. I would never be so boorish as to take one of your opponents. ...This girl."
  330.  
  331. "...Lucella, you aren't..."
  332.  
  333. "You don't need to worry, Deruella. I'm not harboring any malice against this girl. But I want to see what the one who brought my old friends Monique and Harum to their knees is made of."
  334.  
  335. "...I understand. Well then, it's almost time for me to step out."
  336.  
  337. "Thank you for understanding so quickly, Deruella. My preparations to sortie are complete. I'll have it commence at your signal—
  338.  
  339. "The invasion of Lescatié."
  340.  
  341. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  342.  
  343. Mimiru lay on her bed, flapping her legs while pressing her face into an over-frilled pillow decorated with red polka dots on a pink ground. The bed, which boasted the highest quality the nation could then produce, took each of her blows gently with a muffled thump.
  344.  
  345. A great many stuffed animals lay scattered about Mimiru's room, which boasted a floor space of roughly sixteen meters square. Their gazes as they waited to be played with by the room's owner did not reach Mimiru.
  346.  
  347. Cold. What Mimiru felt when she hugged a stuffed animal was not warmth, but cold. Of course, the toys were not actually chilled. It was the feelings of the parents who had given them to her that Mimiru felt.
  348.  
  349. The reason Mimiru had never thought to disparage Elt for being too low born to possess a surname was that she herself had been born into a family of that same class. Neither her father nor her mother were of sufficient social standing to merit a surname. They had only come to be granted one because... because Mimiru had become the College of Sorcery's number three, and in recognition of her achievement in having single-handedly repulsed the "Burst Gang," a mid-sized group of mixed monster and human bandits led by an ogre.
  350.  
  351. It was true that Mimiru's father and mother both delighted at her maturation and distinguished war record, and that they praised her and bought her gifts with each new achievement. Mimiru had delighted too at first, but that delight faded a little each time she contributed new knowledge to the College of Sorcery's library or honed her strength in battle with monsters and villains.
  352.  
  353. She had realized. Realized that even her parents had ceased to see her as an ordinary daughter. They didn't know that she had pretended to sleep and eavesdropped on their distress-filled discussions — and several times, at that. Each time it had served to demonstrate that this home could no longer be a place of tranquility for her.
  354.  
  355. "Hic! Ah, now that's good alcohol."
  356.  
  357. "And to hell with 'a parent's dignity,' I suppose? Well, I suppose it can't be helped."
  358.  
  359. "Damn right! Thanks to Mimiru we've got a family name. Life's gotten pretty cushy, too. Really, we oughta' thank our gracious, gracious Queen Mimiru."
  360.  
  361. "Pathetic. Have some dignity and try to accomplish something for yourself, why don't you. Maybe you could finally be a match for her 'god-given talent.'"
  362.  
  363. "Whassat? And what about you?"
  364.  
  365. "Me? I'm giving up. That kid's different from me, you know? I'm not even going to try..."
  366.  
  367. What Mimiru felt for the parents who she loved so deeply, but who did not respond in kind, was even distrust, but a sensation as if the insides of her chest were becoming dry and parched. An isolation so intense that it was difficult to put into words, as if the other side of the door had suddenly become another world unknown to her.
  368.  
  369. What in the world are these people talking about? "Giving up"? "Dignity"? Aren't you my parents? Aren't I your daughter? Why did it have to become about "accomplishments" and things like that? And "gracious, gracious Queen Mimiru"? How could you say something like that so casually...? "That kid's different"...? But I'm your daughter! We share the same blood!
  370.  
  371. That day, Mimiru fell asleep even earlier than usual. She wished it would turn out to be a dream, but her sagacious brain was well aware that it was not. The sensation of magical energies flowing through her body was enough to convince her that this was a conversation taking place in reality. And if that were not enough, her room when she awakened was just as she had seen it before going to sleep.
  372.  
  373. The children in the orphanage probably did not even have stuffed toys like these. They would not have any of the things in Mimiru's room. The neatly-bound books, the sweet stuffed toys with their smiling faces, the bed so soft and fluffy that her body sank into it... None of these things were likely to be found in that orphanage. But still, in spite of all that...
  374.  
  375. Hurling one stuffed toy into another with a thump, Mimiru lay as she was on the bed and closed her eyes. It was already late. If she didn't sleep now, it would probably get in the way of her duties tomorrow.
  376.  
  377. "Good night," Mimiru murmured in a voice so soft that no one could hear, and snuffed out the room's magical light. What floated across Mimiru's mind as darkness filled her view and she passed into the world of dreams was... the image of a young Holy Knight greeting her just as he always did.
  378.  
  379. "If you get lonely, feel free to come here any time!"
  380.  
  381. The last words he had spoken to her at midday. Somehow, those words, which had offended her at the time, seemed warm and kind now that she was alone.
  382.  
  383. A poet of Zipangu once wrote that "a child is the greatest of all treasures." And every treasure needs to be polished — polished, in this case, by a parent's love. However radiant the treasure, without polishing it will dull and its light will fade. An unpolished treasure will go on waiting for the day that one will appear to restore its sheen — waiting for one who will polish it and hold it in their hands.
  384.  
  385. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  386.  
  387. Continuous peace. While it is the thing the people of the world enjoy above all others, they are apt to forget this fact once it is in their grasp. Although they understand what a struggle it is to preserve peace, in the end they come to accept it as a matter of course.
  388.  
  389. It was just such a peace that reigned in Lescatié that morning. For the rich and for the poor, for all the varied people of the nation, it was a morning like any other.
  390.  
  391. No one could have imagined how easily that peace was about to crumble. Or at least the holy nation of Lescatié, which maintained the second greatest military force among all the nations of the church, was not home to people who spent their days worrying about such things. Even if there had been someone who feared its downfall, they would only have been laughed off as a worrywart.
  392.  
  393. Mimiru was different. Absurd fear or not, it was her job to establish countermeasures against any eventuality. That was why she had been calling for the expansion and strengthening of the sorcerous barriers and the training of additional sorcerers. Due to budgetary issues and, more than anything, Mimiru's age and the fetters of internal power struggles half-hidden behind the scenes, however, her proposals hadn't gone over well, and were progressing slowly if at all.
  394.  
  395. Honestly! Do they intend to go on undermining me forever? Or are they trying to use me as a dumping ground for useless sorcerers?
  396.  
  397. Mimiru, sick of the factions squabbling for influence, was once again sitting by herself in the cafe Loumède, tucking in to one of its famous strawberry parfaits with relish.
  398.  
  399. The cafe was the only place where she could let out a sigh of relief. Her home was as previously stated, and in her workplace at the College of Sorcery was constantly abuzz with the stratagems of high-ranking clergy, knight commanders, and administrators of the College. Many of them competed to use her, as the number one sorcerer in both name and fact, in order to shore up and expand their own power bases. That was another thing Mimiru was sick of.
  400.  
  401. In many ways she had been "unorthodox" from the first, and there was no one she could call a friend. Even the people who approached her with kind smiles on their faces were mostly, underneath the friendly veneer, trying to increase their own importance by taking her side. The remainder regarded her with fear, or with the prejudice that came from age and pride, or simply teamed up with her to accomplish a mission. None of them treated Mimiru as "Mimiru." None of them saw her. Every last one of them was only interested in using her power, intelligence, and renown for their own ends.
  402.  
  403. How did those people think of Mimiru? Perhaps as something like a gilded magician's staff that could walk and talk? If so, it was awfully comical. Dressing up beyond their ability and holding that staff would do nothing to remedy their own immaturity.
  404.  
  405. The bittersweet taste of the strawberries enhanced the sweetness of the fresh cream, and the strawberry chips mixed in with the ice cream burst refreshingly in her mouth. Mimiru finished eating the parfait with a sigh. This was the only time in her daily life that she could forget the troublesome web of relationships that surrounded her at the College of Sorcery... The only time?
  406.  
  407. "If you get lonely, feel free to come here any time!"
  408.  
  409. Of course. She hadn't seen Elt yet today. When she was talking with Elt — even if he irritated her — didn't she forget the hustle and bustle that surrounded her? Besides, for some reason she just couldn't forgive the way he spoke to her, the greatest magician in the College of Sorcery.
  410.  
  411. Alright, I'll go see him again. And today's the day I prove him wrong. I'm not lonely or anything — I just need to teach him a lesson.
  412.  
  413. Having persuaded herself, Mimiru paid the waiter and put the cafe behind her. Some of the surrounding customers discussed her in a matter of fact way, but Mimiru, who was racing towards the barracks feeling almost like a maiden in love, was deaf to their voices. What tactic should she try today? Mimiru simulated the conversation over and over in her head as she hurtled down the main street at top speed.
  414.  
  415. Those plans, however, would never be put into practice.
  416.  
  417. It happened as she was approaching a crossroads, still some distance from the barracks. All of a sudden, an unfamiliar sensation ran through Mimiru's entire body. An intense, biting chill — no, even "chill" was too gentle a term — as if she had been flung into a world thirty degrees below zero with only the clothes on her back flashed through her in an instant. What Mimiru felt was an intense wave of mana.
  418.  
  419. How!? Several of the magical barriers should already be in operation! So how is this mana—?
  420.  
  421. Could it be coming from inside Lescatié? But a monster's mana ought to have been detected, so why was there no warning that the city had been invaded, nor any sign of a military response? She could blame the top brass and their power struggles as much as she liked, but she had no way of dealing with a problem without knowing the cause. Mimiru tried to contact the College of Sorcery's barrier unit with "Wind Whisper" (a spell that used wind to gather sounds from far off and to deliver the caster's voice to distant locations) and send them instructions. But the response Mimiru received was one she had never expected.
  422.  
  423. "Ah♪ There♪ It feels so goood♪"
  424.  
  425. "'Shield'— Aaahh♪ How? How did—♪"
  426.  
  427. "Come♪ Big brother♪ Come more and more♪"
  428.  
  429. What's going on!? Does this mean the barrier unit has already given in!? And these childish voice... It couldn't be!
  430.  
  431. The voices that reached Mimiru through the "Wind Whisper" sounded younger than those she had heard in previous exchanges with the barrier unit. Mimiru had been prepared for the cries of pleasure, as she had guessed from the mana she sensed that monsters had already penetrated the interior, but the fact that the voices of the barrier unit sounded as if they were growing younger exacerbated her impatience. Her extensive knowledge and the surge of mana she had felt a moment before told her the identity of the assailant, but Mimiru still found herself unable to believe it.
  432.  
  433. Could it really be a baphomet!? I advised them on how to deal with one's magical power, but...!
  434.  
  435. Mimiru was shocked by the possible existence of a baphomet whose magical power far exceeded her expectations, and at the same time she mentally berated the top brass for failing to provide her with sufficiently talented people. Properly speaking she ought to check its advance at this stage, then capture and restrain it after completely stripping it of its mana. Otherwise, scenes like the one she had just overheard would become commonplace — no, that was already happening. Knowing that such a dangerous creature was at large in the country without even an effort being made to restrain it made Mimiru impatient.
  436.  
  437. With the barrier unit in their present condition, it wasn't difficult to imagine monsters swarming into the city, into the country, before much longer. No, the influx of monsters itself wasn't the problem. The problem was that citizens who turned into monsters would swell their numbers and destroy the nation from the inside as well. But before it came to that... they would have to strike the inner citadel. Preventing that was the duty assigned to Mimiru, assigned to her ability.
  438.  
  439. "So, the mana is headed... there!"
  440.  
  441. Hurling the giddiness she had felt a moment before three hundred million light years away, Mimiru summoned her favorite wand, then hurried towards the source of the mana.
  442.  
  443. "More♪ Deeper♪ Even deeper♪"
  444.  
  445. "How's this? Tee hee♪ I made the bigger for you♪ My b-r-e-a-s-t-s♪"
  446.  
  447. Mimiru closed her ears to the cries of pleasure that told of nearby residents already beginning to become monsters so that they could not trouble her. The knights of Lescatié were not incompetent. Messages of the outbreak and the monster advance must already be coming in. They would dispatch troops to expel the monsters and defend the sacred nation.
  448.  
  449. "...Aargh!"
  450.  
  451. Mimiru shook her head from side to side to clear the image of Elt that flashed through her mind. Why are you worrying about a single soldier in this state of emergency!? Pull yourself together, Mimiru! she told herself, but the image kept popping up when she least expected it. If Elt were attacked by a monster... and if he were stripped of his freedom and made their prey...!
  452.  
  453. "...Hey! Pull yourself together, Mimiru! Don't think about him! Just think about the opponent you're going to beat!" Mimiru forcefully reprimanded herself as she ran along the main street, on which monsters were already visible.
  454.  
  455. Strangely, none of the monsters tried to target Mimiru. On the contrary, on the way she took there was not a monster to be seen. When she looked to either side, it appeared that the knights were keeping them at bay, but there was something odd about the monsters' behavior. They were avoiding fatal wounds and not rushing the defenders, but they were not fleeing, either. It was so conspicuous that, had Mimiru been her usual self, she would have easily noticed that she was being lured. But in her current state Mimiru couldn't afford to care. If she let her thoughts stray even a little from her objective, thoughts of Elt, her quarreling-partner and novice Holy Knight, ended up popping into her head. Because of that, Mimiru didn't even notice that she was being lured. Then again, even if she had noticed, perhaps she would not have halted her feet.
  456.  
  457. When Mimiru did come to a stop, she was at the foot of the clock tower, famed as a sightseeing spot both inside and outside Lescatié. The place was normally crowded with citizens and tourists from abroad, but now there was not a human nor a monster to be seen in Mimiru's surroundings.
  458.  
  459. "You deliberately cleared out the people? Wasn't that nice of you."
  460.  
  461. Mimiru looked up at the clock tower. Its size didn't particularly impress her. After all, the place was a symbol of the city. She couldn't be awed by a sight she was so accustomed to seeing. But where she was looking, at the summit of the clock tower... there "it" was. One of their present assailants, and the owner of the mana, so powerful it made her shiver, that she had sensed before.
  462.  
  463. "We want to avoid inflicting needless injuries too, you know. At least, harming the innocent is no hobby of mine."
  464.  
  465. As "it" spoke, it leapt from the pinnacle. The figure, which to Mimiru's eyes appeared only as a point, grew gradually more distinct. Mimiru stared matter of factly at the descending creature, and began reciting an incantation. Properly speaking, she ought to take this opportunity to launch a surprise attack, but Mimiru didn't think one likely to succeed in this case. She could sense the gale that raged around the creature, defending it against magical attacks. She would have to disenchant it first.
  466.  
  467. "...'Newt,' pierce the barrier eyes cannot see."
  468.  
  469. Sure enough, the blue light emitted from the tip of Mimiru's wand struck the "thing," which was slowly coming into full view, and she was certain she saw particles of intermingled blue and gold light scatter... but then the light promptly converged into a point, and reverted to its original state. Seeing that the thing had managed to recombine her support magic without difficulty, Mimiru cut off the incantation she had been chanting. She could tell that by firing the spell she would just have been wasting magic.
  470.  
  471. The shape and color of the point that had leapt from the tower top at last began to clarify themselves to Mimiru's impatient gaze. Its general physical appearance was that of a child Mimiru's age, or perhaps even slightly younger. Two protrusions sprouting from its head looked like pigtails, but going by the way they were unstirred by the wind and the curve they described towards the back of its head, Mimiru guessed they were horns. The fact that its hands and feet were larger than those of a human and somehow reminiscent of an animal's in shape left her in no doubt that it was a monster. And... a baphomet.
  472.  
  473. Mimiru took a step back in the face of pressure so intense it almost seemed the creature's whole body was comprised of pure mana, and readied her wand. In her eyes, there was no trepidation to be seen. Only a cool gleam focused on how to bury the enemy before her.
  474.  
  475. The baphomet was still in freefall as it approached the ground, but when it had a reached an elevation roughly seven times its own height, the speed of its descent dropped precipitously, and its posture shifted from that of a sky diver to a haughty posture, fully erect with its arms crossed. By the time she neared the ground, her descent had slowed to less than the speed of a falling leaf, and then... she softly alighted.
  476.  
  477. Mimiru was more than a little surprised by the baphomet's appearance. She was prepared for the characteristics of the baphomet as she had seen them in illustrated encyclopedia being circulated surreptitiously within church, but the baphomet now before her eyes was clearly... peculiar. Her mantle and necktie, which might be considered symbols of power or rank, were tattered around the hem like those worn by wanderers. Or so it appeared at first glance, but actually its shape was constantly changing, causing it to billow and look as if dusty brown flames were sprouting from her back. The encyclopedia showed a baphomet's mantle fastened with clasps patterned after goat's horns, but hers were secured with deep red orbs like crystallized blood. One eye hid behind her bangs, as if to conceal a glare that could not but terrify the faint of heart.
  478.  
  479. The baphomet's most striking characteristic was that the fur that covered her arms and legs, as well as the hair on her head, was the color of darkness itself, darker even than black. Her skin was the same deep brown as a dark elf's, as if that pigment had begun to dissolve into fair, soft skin. If she were to stray into a settlement whose people equated the color black with evil, her coloring, as well as the mana that could hardly be contained in her small body, would almost certainly make her the foremost candidate for the inquisition.
  480.  
  481. Heedless of Mimiru's unvoiced surprise, the baphomet struck a daunting pose, threw out her chest... and looked slightly up at Mimiru do to the difference in their heights. Her deep crimson gaze was piercing.
  482.  
  483. "We meet for the first time, Mimiru Miltié. I am Lucella, and I serve under her royal highness Deruella, fourth princess of the monster realm."
  484.  
  485. Her air of intimidation was so overwhelming that Mimiru did not even notice the incongruity of the comical pitter-patter made by the baphomet's pads as she walked. Mimiru stared straight at the invader without stirring an inch. Her keen stare was a match for the baphomet's piercing gaze.
  486.  
  487. "You must have a lot of confidence to reveal your unit."
  488.  
  489. Mimiru renewed her grip on the wand. Her words were calm, but her but her hands were slick with sweat. It was as if the battle had already begun. The force of their gathering mana had already grown so intense that it was noisily swaying the needles of the clock above the baphomet's head.
  490.  
  491. "Of course I'm confident. I was chosen by the Dark Lord's daughter, after all. Still, you've got some fine mana yourself."
  492.  
  493. "I don't care to be complimented by a monster!"
  494.  
  495. The magical power both emitted was causing dry leaves fallen within the barrier to crackle and burst. And it wasn't just fallen leaves. Even the flowers planted in beds around the square before the clock tower to soothe people's hearts were scattering with popping sounds like those made by static electricity. But neither of them paid any heed. Their eyes were locked on each other, taking note of the least strain in their opponent. They were each looking for an opening, wondering which would make the first move.
  496.  
  497. Surrounded by whirling torrents of mana, the two maintained an eerie silence. The first to break it was Lucella.
  498.  
  499. "When I heard that Monique and Harum had been forced to retreat, I confess I doubted my ears. But now that I see you, I can believe it... Paralyze."
  500.  
  501. Snap. The sound came from the light gathered on Lucella's palm. She had completed a spell to deliver a powerful electric shock almost without an incantation. Mimiru was more than a little shaken, but concealed her feelings and, without uttering a word, caused her palm to be coated in ocher light. Neither shifted her gaze. When they did look away... the contest would probably be decided in an instant. The one who averted her gaze first would lose.
  502.  
  503. Then their quiet standoff...
  504.  
  505. "Pierce!"
  506.  
  507. "Wall of Earth!"
  508.  
  509. ...became a battle of motion, as each flourished her light-covered hand.
  510.  
  511. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  512.  
  513. "O sovereign of the depths who shakes with anger, bring your scorching roar upon this land! Consuming Flame!"
  514.  
  515. "Reunion! Lance of Light! ...What? It didn't completely dispel the—"
  516.  
  517. Ten minutes had passed since their battle was joined. If there had been an audience to this conflict, at present it would probably have appeared to three quarters, or even seven eighths, of the spectators that Mimiru had the upper hand. So far Lucella had been on the defensive and had not managed to land even a single attack on Mimiru. Seven eights of the remaining onlookers would probably have judged that the two were evenly matched. It was not as if Lucella had suffered a serious wound yet either. The spells Mimiru launched at her were all powerful, and several that an ordinary magician would have used as a trump card were among them. Lucella was considerably reducing their force. The few remaining spectators would probably have judged that Mimiru... was at an overwhelming disadvantage.
  518.  
  519. Unbelievable! How is she blocking my attacks this well?
  520.  
  521. The more time passed, the more Mimiru realized how disadvantageous her position was. She didn't know the nature of the barrier, and her opponent was a baphomet, the backbone of the Dark Lord's magical forces. There was a strong possibility that the barrier surrounding them had more functions than just clearing the area of people. She realized that the moment she faced her enemy in this place she had fallen into their trap. She regretted her own blunder in having forgotten herself and rushed in, but she refused to let it show. She stubbornly focused herself to concentrate solely on the task at hand — on defeating the baphomet.
  522.  
  523. Lucella, meanwhile, was shocked by the rare potential this girl possessed. It had been difficult for her to believe that her old cromrades, Monique the amazoness chieftain and Harum the Echidna, had been forced to retreat. That was why she had positioned Deruella. Those two were not a pair to be defeated by a mere girl. It was only natural, then, for her to take an interest in Mimiru's abilities. All the more so because, as the commander of a sorcery unit serving a daughter of the Dark Lord, she had hardly been unaware of Mimiru's existence. And now that she was exchanging spells with the girl, she understood. Mimiru certainly had outstanding talent. A prodigy like her might appear only once in several decades, if that. Lucella recognized that it was no wonder Monique and Harum had been defeated, faced with the possessor of such power.
  524.  
  525. However...
  526.  
  527. At the same time, Lucella felt it. Felt something lacking in Mimiru's magical attacks. It was holding back Mimiru's abilities, and tipping the odds in Lucella's favor. If Mimiru were truly using magic from the bottom of her heart, facing her might have cost Lucella a serious effort.
  528.  
  529. "Wall of Flame, Wall of Water, Wall of Wind, Wall of Earth, Wall of Lightning... There, that ought to do it."
  530.  
  531. Magical defensive barriers of multiple attributes sprang into being simultaneously around Lucella, and Mimiru gritted her teeth in frustration. Breaking each wall would require a spell of the corresponding element, but... could she do that with her current mana? She might be inflicting damage on Lucella, such as it was, but the effort was taxing Mimiru's physical and magical strength. Thinking strategically, turning the situation to her advantage and striking a blow against the baphomet... was not impossible. If she could evade Lucella's attacks long enough, she had a secret weapon, that, if it hit, would take the baphomet out of the fight. It was a spell of her own invention, and was not yet known to anyone else.
  532.  
  533. Mimiru kept silent, and tried to put some distance between herself and her opponent. Lucella made no move to pursue her, and instead began to question her with an air of nonchalance.
  534.  
  535. "What a pity. You disappointment me, Mimiru Miltié."
  536.  
  537. Mimiru made no response. She just went on with her incantation while staring at Lucella with apparent indifference.
  538.  
  539. "Why don't you open your heart? Why do you set yourself against everyone? You possess talent far beyond the ordinary, but you might as well be putting shackles on yourself. Magic is no different from the body. Did you think you could turn your back on your own heart and deny yourself?"
  540.  
  541. There was no answer. Mimiru merely regarded Lucella with a cold, almost inhuman gaze, and devoted all of her considerable magical power to invoking her spell. The was no emotion in her — or rather, she was deliberately shutting down her emotions. She would not be able to complete the spell otherwise. Even though Lucella was a monster, even though she was an enemy of humanity and had never met Mimiru before, she had easily seen through to Mimiru's true feelings, her heart's true nature, and put them into words. If Mimiru allowed her brain to fully register this fact, she would become unable to maintain her composure.
  542.  
  543. Before Mimiru's brain could convert the sounds her ears captured into information, her incantation was complete. As it finished, a magician's hexagram formed at her feet. As if in testament to Lescatié's love of cleanliness, it boasted a white radiance that swallowed and erased all other color.
  544.  
  545. "Well now... I never imagined you would be capable of casting a spell of this level."
  546.  
  547. Lucella's face showed surprise and admiration. She realized that this would be Mimiru's trump card. What shocked her was that Mimiru could have progressed to the point that she was able to cast magic on this scale, even in an imperfect form, unaided. Unmoved by Lucella's reaction, Mimiru chanted the words of activation.
  548.  
  549. "I, by this light, cast darkness back into eternal nothingness... Trial!"
  550.  
  551. A colossal light gathered around Mimiru's wand, and gradually began to take on contours. It was like a giant sword, or perhaps an all-piercing spear, or perhaps an unstoppable arrow. Its aim was fixed on the lone black goat standing before her.
  552.  
  553. "So, you're pointing that thing at me? And it looks like it would chase me even if I tried to run... Hee hee."
  554.  
  555. Lucella put a hand to her mouth and chuckled at Mimiru, as if she had just seen something funny. There was nothing in her manner to suggest that her life was in danger. Mimiru's dormant feelings cried out in anger at that reaction, but were contained deep inside her and not allowed to show. She aimed the light, which had already grown to the size of a cannon, at the heavens and let it fly. It cut through the air as if to pierce the sky, which had become shrouded in dark, roiling clouds due to the influence of mana, shining all the while. If anyone had been present to view the battle, the light would likely have appeared to them as a goddess, born up by the heavens, trying to guide humanity to victory.
  556.  
  557. In the sky, the light continued to grow denser and sharper. It was becoming something close to a single, well-honed spear. The spear of light, floating in the heavens, was pointed at Lucella, and her alone. In an emotionless voice, Mimiru pronounced the sentence of death.
  558.  
  559. "Judgment!"
  560.  
  561. Obeying her command, the spear of light took aim at Lucella and let fly. Faster than the eye could follow, it pierced Lucella's shield and all her magical barriers, bringing down an iron hammer of pure destruction! It ought to have run through Lucella's heart in the blink of an eye. It was a spell which aimed, if its incantation were not interrupted, to annihilate the enemy with its massive destructive force. When Lucella had failed to interrupt the casting, Mimiru had gained a slim chance at victory. By all rights, had she been able to fire it with an unfettered, joyous heart, the light should have been able to shine through the darkness. But she had fired it without ever feeling an ounce of joy in the act, and now...
  562.  
  563. "Devour, and leave not even marrow — Corrosion."
  564.  
  565. "What!?"
  566.  
  567. It was all Mimiru could do to cry out in shock. The instant the spear of light, whose killing power ought to have risen to the absolute limit, struck Lucella's breast, it broke and withered like a flower petal in the freezing cold, eroded by darkness. Mimiru now saw that a magician's pentagram had formed at Luella's feet, and an eerie, purple light was rising from the ground to the sky.
  568.  
  569. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Like a frozen sweet being crushed in a mouth, the lance of light was splintering from the tip, becoming contaminated, and dissolving. As it did, Lucella's mana was climbing. There could be no doubt — she was devouring it. Lucella's mana was consuming Mimiru's.
  570.  
  571. That instant, Mimiru's defeat became certain. She had put all her magical and physical strength into the spell, and now she had none left. Lucella, on the other hand, was making Mimiru's strength fodder for her own. Mimiru could not even muster the strength to flee, and even if she could, it would do her no good within the barrier. She was painfully aware of that.
  572.  
  573. Lucella, who had finished absorbing the last fragment of Mimiru's spell, turned calmly back to look down at Mimiru, who sunk to the ground with a groan. Mimiru was backing away while keeping her eyes on Lucella, who was already displaying the composure of a victor. Her dress and shoes made scraping sounds on the flagstones.
  574.  
  575. Lucella, her emotional restraint perhaps beginning to melt, flashed a somehow licentious grin at the cowering Mimiru. It closely resembled the smile of one who has seized the power of life and death over the vanquished, but... there was definitely something different about it.
  576.  
  577. "I wonder... Why? I doubt you've lived even a fifteenth of my years, so why have you closed your heart so completely?"
  578.  
  579. As Lucella approached, making a soft tapping sound with each step, Mimiru could do nothing but slowly retreat to gain distance. In her current predicament, it was no comfort to her that Lucella's strides were not very long. It did no more than draw out her fear.
  580.  
  581. "It's no exaggeration to say that the beauty of the young lies in the purity of their souls. As they grow, they become conscious of deceit, experience hardship and conflict, and end up sullying their souls by their own hands..."
  582.  
  583. Tap. Tap. Mimiru could not help shivering at each footfall, a little louder than the own before.
  584.  
  585. "I pity you. Your ability as a magician could likely rise to still greater heights, but the stain on your soul is holding you back. Why do you try so hard to be 'grown up'? I want to know for your own sake as well."
  586.  
  587. Being told by a monster that something was "for her own sake" provoked a slight response from Mimiru. That is to say, a faint light of determination returned to her frightened eyes, although it was hardly as if she had regained sufficient strength to overturn her situation.
  588.  
  589. As far as Mimiru was concerned, monsters were the enemy, and only the enemy. So whatever her opponent might say to her would be to her opponent's advantage, and would bring no benefit to Mimiru. A high-ranking monster like the one standing before her was incapable of uncalculated kindness. She could never trust such a creature when it told her that something was "for her own sake."
  590.  
  591. However.
  592.  
  593. "So..."
  594.  
  595. Whether she trusted or not, Mimiru was powerless to refuse Lucella's "generosity."
  596.  
  597. When Lucella's feet came to a halt, Mimiru had been driven back to the barrier's edge. There was nowhere left to run. Lucella gazed at Mimiru, and her lips twisted into a crescent. Her eyes seemed sympathetic, and yet a scrap of her inner sadism managed to peek through.
  598.  
  599. "...I'll need you to let me take a peek into your mind."
  600.  
  601. That was when the strange thing happened.
  602.  
  603. Slither.
  604.  
  605. However advanced her magical knowledge, and even if she had enough remaining mana to extricate herself, she was still a girl of tender years. There was no way her bodily strength and stamina would be sufficient to break free. And that was to say nothing of her present condition — her mana, although it had been high at birth and only grown as the years passed, was already exhausted. She had not even held enough back to defend herself in her assault on the black goat monster who now floated before her, arms crossed, looking down at her. So there was no way at all for her to evade an attack.
  606.  
  607. She didn't even have time to cry out. In the blink of an eye, her arms and legs were bound by... tentacles. Black, similar to the black of the baphomet's clothes, and clad in a strange, slimy, deep purple fluid, they removed her clogs and were twined about her cream-colored knee socks.
  608.  
  609. Beginning where the jet-black tentacles touched, the knee socks began to melt. Almost like a flesh-colored stain spreading, their surface area was rapidly decreasing. As the stuff that separated skin from tentacle disappeared without accomplishing its function, the touch of the tentacles fell directly on Mimiru's flesh.
  610.  
  611. Disgusting. Mimiru's face grew even more drawn in response to a touch which seemed to make manifest a human's inborn sense of revulsion. They were jelly-like, as if an amorphous mass of protein had been crammed into an enamel membrane, and coated like a slug in a fluid which dripped to the ground in sticky strings and covered the girl's dainty feet so thickly that they seemed plastered in slime. And the tentacles were expanding the scope of their bonds.
  612.  
  613. Two tentacles wrapped around the girl's chest, as if to further restrain her. During an interval in the shrieks rising from the town, the fizzing of the ribbon-adorned clothes that covered her bosom dissolving away reached her ears.
  614.  
  615. "Be at ease. Those creatures are of the same substance as my mana. They don't eat people. They won't dissolve your body... although they might melt your heart. See?"
  616.  
  617. The summoner of the tentacles flashed an ominous grin, and Mimiru grit her teeth. But she was rapidly losing the strength to do even that. Her body seemed to be growing heavier, spreading from her feet to her legs, and from fingers to her hands and arms. Her strength was being sucked out. Just as leeches with blood, the black tentacles touching Mimiru's supple skin were latching onto her body and sucking up what little physical and magical strength she had left. In those tentacles resided a devilry that stole away the power to resist, like powerful ropes in the age of the old monsters.
  618.  
  619. A passionate embrace that made bones grind and creak audibly, such as lamiae performed on humans in the age of the old Dark Lords... the tentacles' grasp was not that strong, but because it caused Mimiru no pain, she could not distract herself from other sensations — ticklishness and shame. In the end, regardless of her performance on the frontlines of numerous battles, Mimiru was a child. Although not as tender as a baby's, her skin was far more sensitive than an adult's. Sensitive enough that she could not help feeling even the almost-imperceptible heat of the black tentacles on her skin.
  620.  
  621. Mimiru's socks, which had been reduced to a substance half fiber and half goo, were spreading a hot, sizzling sensation across the soles of her feet. It was as if, despite their whole substance having eroded into a deep purple ooze, the socks were still struggling to wrap her feet in an effort to faithfully accomplish their appointed role. But the ooze was not socks. Their earnest desire to fulfill their duties, rather than protecting her, was putting her in an even more trying position.
  622.  
  623. Her clothes were melting into a deep purple fluid that attacked her. I was like an anti-monster nation being invaded by monsters. More than once, Mimiru had seen a nation  that had been an ally until a few days before raise the standard of rebellion against the church, the brunt of their aggression now directed against Lescatié. And now Mimiru was that in miniature.
  624.  
  625. "Tee hee hee. Intelligent as you are, I'm sure you know what that ooze covering your legs is going to do...♪"
  626.  
  627. Mimiru did not answer. No, she could not answer. She was desperately suppressing the words that were on the verge of spilling from her mouth, earnestly clenching her teeth with all her strength, even as it was being sucked out of her. The viscous fluid clinging to her bared arms and legs made her nerves overly sensitive and imparted an oozing ache, and the tentacles had twined up to her shoulders and thighs, fondling them with abandon. In her teary eyes, however, light still dwelt. The light shot through the baphomet, but there was no way the monster, in an overwhelmingly superior position, would heed her powerless gaze. In the end, she was just kicking her heels against the ground.
  628.  
  629. As if to mock her determination not to let out a scream, the tentacles were one by one expanding the scope of their encroachment on Mimiru's body. Slurping, oozing, they pressed against various parts of her body and repeatedly caressed them, as if motivated by a covetous affection. Their heavy, slippery smoothness and light, clinging stickiness made Mimiru feel as if her arms and legs were receiving thousands of loving kisses. An unpleasant sound like stick candy being licked right next to her ear echoed in her surroundings.
  630.  
  631. The tentacles were reaching up from her thighs to her buttocks. They made her clothes turn to goo wherever they touched, but a few places still eluded them. The body's exit, the anus, and the entrance to her holy citadel... the labia.
  632.  
  633. "That comes last. There's nothing to be afraid of; my tentacles won't steal your precious virginity."
  634.  
  635. Lucella whispered kindly to Mimiru, apparently indifferent to whether she could be heard. Mimiru, of course, was in no state to listen. The parts of her body in contact with the slime of her rapidly melting clothes, which was steadily increasing her sensitivity wherever it touched, seemed to Mimiru to be generating an unnaturally high heat.
  636.  
  637. Mimiru's body was transmitting an ache to her in a fixed cycle, as if several new hearts were now beating within it. The tentacles were fondling her, directly touching her nerves, separated from the air by an ever thinning layer of skin, continuously delivering pleasure like shocks of static electricity. Mimiru, feeling her own body refuse to obey her, merely endured the pleasure with determination. Even she herself was likely unaware what drove her to do so. Lucella, however, had perceived that it was the "adult" still in Mimiru's heart.
  638.  
  639. "Hmph. Stubborn, aren't you? Well, it can't be helped — that's the way you've been living. It's still within my expectations."
  640.  
  641. Leisurely, with the attitude of a conductor waving a baton, Lucella began to chant another incantation. Mimiru, her pupils losing focus due to the itching sensation caused by the tentacles' continued caresses, was unable even to keep her gaze trained on Lucella as the latter played a silent symphony. It was already becoming difficult for her to keep up her earlier piercing gaze.
  642.  
  643. Lucella gazed at Mimiru with deep affection. Concealing the sorrow she felt because that gaze would probably be interpreted only as that of a conqueror basking in her position of dominance, the baphomet ran her claws along the lines of Mimiru's exposed back... Stroke. Stroke. Stroke.
  644.  
  645. The reaction was obvious. Mimiru arched her back, and she shuddered as her face convulsed in a voiceless cry. There was something enticing about the faint panting that slipped from the corners of her mouth. In Mimiru's eyes, which no longer possessed the strength to glare back at Lucella, the tint of impurity was growing. Casting her gaze down, she found her vulva beginning to moisten itself with fresh nectar despite not being touched, as if eager to see use. Her body had already stopped resisting. It had been unprepared for the tentacles ministrations.
  646.  
  647. Lucella nodded in satisfaction as she gazed up at the crucified Mimiru. Everything so far had been merely the hors d'ouvres, so to speak. Lucella had already prepared the way for the main course. Only, she would not be the one to partake of it. That was where her personal involvement would cease.
  648.  
  649. "Tee hee hee... What a lovely body you have — it reminds me of a bud about to bloom♪ Especially these legs... I just can't help wanting a taste of them♪"
  650.  
  651. Slurp. Without warning, Lucella sent her tongue crawling over a goo-wet leg. Mimiru convulsed again at the somewhat rough touch accompanied by the sensation of something even slimier than the goo being smeared onto her. Lucella, heedless, went on licking and tickling Mimiru's bare skin, which by this time was covered only by scraps of cloth it would be absurd to call "clothing."
  652.  
  653. "...To think... mmm... that this adorable belly... will one day swell with... nh... a gentleman's essence... ah... How lovely you'll look...♪"
  654.  
  655. Up the leg to the navel, then down the other leg, Lucella licked and tickled methodically with her tongue. It was almost like she was an animal diligently affixing its sent to a toy, or else... like she was painting something, with Mimiru's soft skin as her canvas.
  656.  
  657. "...Whew. Hee hee...♪ Now, shall we begin the feast?"
  658.  
  659. Lucella had had her fill of Mimiru's undeveloped, nubile body. There was something obscene about the way she licked up the ooze clinging to her lips. Her expression, as she turned her gaze on Mimiru, was even more delighted than before.
  660.  
  661. Mimiru felt a new, different heat oozing from the places she had been licked. It was different from the heat of lust burning through her body. A more primitive, gentler heat whose warmth made her heart melt. That was what Lucella's skillful tongue-work had brought forth as it brought skin already softened by the tentacle ooze to the absolute limits of pleasure. Mimiru was resisting the assault, but her spirit was hanging on by a thread. No, it only looked as if she were holding out — her body was already yielding. That she had yet to let slip a cry was a testament to Mimiru's incredible force of will. But that will, too...
  662.  
  663. "Now, show me your real heart, freed from the yoke of 'adulthood'...!"
  664.  
  665. ...was regretfully overrun as Lucella spoke. The tentacles, which until now had only twined about Mimiru's body, now rubbed themselves along its contours. Then some of them stilled — they had not overlooked the fact that, as Mimiru watched their behavior with vacant eyes, her mouth hung loosely open. The tentacles bent close to Mimiru's face, almost as if they were appraising her, and the next instant, displaying an agility to which no ordinary person could react, dove into Mimiru's mouth!
  666.  
  667. Mimiru's first reflex in response to the bitter taste that rushed in a moment from the tip of her tongue to the base of her nose was to vomit, but the deep purple tentacles flared open their tips inside her, as if to assert dominance over her mouth, and she could not dislodge them! Miniscule tentacles flooded from the opened tips, licking and brushing the backsides of her teeth, lightly tickling the underside of her tongue, twining around its root, crawling into over every inch of her mouth as if tasting it! The goo the tentacles secreted tasted sour, and because it clung stickily to her tastebuds, forcing its flavor on her, Mimiru tasted the pain of wanting to vomit and being unable to do so.
  668. Lucella, who had floated up into the air, stuck out her tongue and licked up the tears overflowing from Mimiru's eyes. Mimiru shuddered at even that faint stimulation, and seemed on the verge of crying out, but any cry was stifled by the tentacles filling her mouth. Even so, something like a moan could be heard.
  669.  
  670. As if to steal a march on Mimiru, whose attention was focused on the tentacles running roughshod in her mouth, the other tentacles bent down as well, and began to stick to Mimiru's skin all over! Some opened their tips like the ones in her mouth, and clung slimily to her shoulder blades while dripping thick ooze from the smaller tentacles that emerged. The inner surfaces of the tentacles, which spread open like flower petals, were shaped like suction cups. Where they clung, they pulled up the skin wherever they touched, and imparted a stimulus like being lightly pinched. The tentacles stuck like that to Mimiru's feet, to the undersides of her armpits, to the backs of her knees. Some of them even fastened on her lovely chest. The minute tentacles that sprouted from their centers twined about her nipples, still like innocent cherries, and firmly groped them to their tips. Her nipples being groped with movements that seemed intent on seizing the foci of her sexual sensations, groped with movements more forceful than masturbation, of which she was still ignorant, was causing a unfamiliar heat to swell within Mimiru.
  671.  
  672. The unknown stimulation drove Mimiru to twist her body almost unconsciously. The tentacles, however, all remained stuck to her body and would not be detached. On the contrary, the stimulation imparted by the tenacious way they clung to her skin sent an electric shock running through Mimiru. Syrupy nectar was overflowing from her secret place. As if aiming to suck up even that fluid, spilled by a purely physiological reaction, two tentacles slithered themselves round her thighs like creepers of morning glory, and — squelch!
  673.  
  674. "Nngh...!"
  675.  
  676. They latched on to her, centered on her vulva and her anus, as if to cover up her nether regions! As they did so, two more tentacles melded their petals to the others and covered the whole region of her hips, forming a tentacle diaper!
  677.  
  678. Tiny tentacles sprouted like fine hairs all over the linings of the tentacles stuck to her legs and flanks, and the stimulation of being licked and fondled conflicted with the intermittent sucking that went on between her legs. The tentacles themselves, moreover, massaged her buttocks, further heightening the sensations assaulting Mimiru to a point just this side of pain.
  679.  
  680. Minute tentacles traced the outlines of her vulva without breaking her hymen, sucking up the overflowing nectar. Those on her anus, in contrast, after heavily plastering it with slime, thrust forward into her rectum as if to develop a new sexual feeling there.
  681.  
  682. Mouth, feet, armpits, knees, buttocks, and her unmentionables... Every spot on Mimiru's body was being assaulted simultaneously. She quickly passed the critical point, and ended up climaxing. The tentacle diaper noisily slurped up the overflowing obscene nectars, passing it into their roots. Mimiru, having received the first climax of her life, was drained of strength. She was in no condition to consider the fact that it had been brought about by a hated monster. The tentacles that had dominated her mouth poured a sweet fluid thickly down her throat, but not even that provoked a reaction.
  683.  
  684. As Mimiru hung in that state, a single tentacle fastened onto her neck.
  685.  
  686. Despite the climax she had just experienced, Mimiru roused at once. It is said that humans, whatever their mental state, are pulled back to reality by moments of supreme danger. Perhaps her body sensed that such a moment had come. But it was too late.
  687.  
  688. "Ngh! Mmm!"
  689.  
  690. Mimiru shivered in fear at the chills rising up her spine. They felt almost like bits of ice were being slipped beneath her skin, one by one.
  691.  
  692. The tentacles stuck to Mimiru's spine, unlike the others, were flat-surfaced. But their undersides sprouted small, pointed tentacles. When these made contact with her skin, they penetrated it without causing pain, then coiled about and merged with her blood vessels and her nerves.
  693.  
  694. The sensation of her insides being silently, tinglingly violated frightened Mimiru. It felt as if she was ceasing to be herself. If she had been a veteran fighter with many years behind her, she might have considered suicide as an alternative to her present predicament. But Mimiru had no such thoughts. She struggled to think of a way to break free, not with a cool head, but falteringly, in a panic. And yet...
  695.  
  696. Her fear, the cause of her hurried thoughts, was fading. As it did so, her mind was growing so calm and relaxed that she could not think what to do. The fluid that had just been forced down Mimiru's throat was beginning to take effect. The powerful sedative induced a state almost like intoxication, half-separating her mind from her body.
  697.  
  698. The tentacles stretching into Mimiru's body were sticking to her veins and nerves, even reaching into her spine. The bitter sensation of the squirming tentacles overrunning her insides, however, cause no discomfort to her detached mind. Instead, it brought about a sensation that resembled the warmth of being "linked" to another... Drool flowed smoothly from the corners of Mimiru's mouth, accompanied by a wordless cry. The lines of her body, so overloaded with pleasure it seemed about to burn up, expressed submission and lust.
  699.  
  700. Squish, slither, squelch... The tentacles were stuck to her all over, on her arms, on her legs, on her back, and gradually extending beneath her skin, joining with her. Mimiru was bodily becoming one with the tentacles. Of course, the tentacles weren't touching her anus and vagina at all as they did so. It was all as Lucella willed it — Mimiru's body was joined to Lucella's mana.
  701.  
  702. "Now that we're linked, opening up your memories and emotions will be a simple matter... And naturally, interference from you will be virtually nil...♪"
  703.  
  704. Lucella made a tube of mana sprout from the tentacle stuck to Mimiru's neck and stretch out towards toward Mimiru's head. Mimiru, still being violated, moaned helplessly in response to the numbing sensation coming from her body. She no longer had the strength or the will to resist.
  705.  
  706. When Lucella's tentacle drew near to the line of Mimiru's hair, she caused it to split into two branches. Their targets were... Mimiru's ears, the openings nearest to her brain.
  707.  
  708. The tentacles were slithering their way into Mimiru's head through both her ears, in such a way that they might have made wet squelching sounds, had they been real.
  709.  
  710. "Mmm... Mmm... Mmm..."
  711.  
  712. Mimiru trembled, moaning like an idiot. The pleasure running through her like an electric shock was so intense that it would drive some people mad, but Mimiru's mind was unharmed. Her body was shouldering her mind's portion of the stimulus.
  713.  
  714. Squish... Squish... Twisting and turning more than they needed to, turning to immaterial mana and passing through Mimiru's eardrums, the tentacles' tips leisurely penetrated to the place that housed her brain. Then, without any hesitation, the tips changed into bodies of mana and sank themselves into the region governing memory — the hippocampus.
  715.  
  716. "...I expected as much, but... I see. Hmm..."
  717.  
  718. Lucella's expression was obviously gloomy.
  719.  
  720. A "voice" that grew louder as Lucella's mana spread through Mimiru was informing Lucella about Mimiru's mind. The voice conveyed, along with Mimiru's memories, enough evidence to show clearly why Mimiru had so closed her heart.
  721.  
  722. Her parents' self-serving complaints.
  723.  
  724. The loneliness of having no one to treat as an equal in school.
  725.  
  726. The absence of adult role models.
  727.  
  728. The pupils used in ugly power struggles.
  729.  
  730. The never ending chain of praise giving rise to jealousy and utility, which in turn drew more praise...
  731.  
  732. "...Quite a 'blessing' you have there."
  733.  
  734. Lucella practically spit the words. A tinge of distress and sorrow rose in her face. No, perhaps it could better be called anger. Without doubt, it was Mimiru's ability that had caused a girl of such tender years to be struck full-on by the darkness the world contained, for it to twist, trample and bind her spirit. In light of the undeniable results she had achieved thus far, her ability could only be called wonderful. But what that ability had brought her was a deficiency of the warm communion of which boys and girls of that age ought to have their fill, and a premature knowledge of the truth of the cruelty of human society, of which a child of her age ought, on the contrary, to remain ignorant.
  735.  
  736. As a monster — no, as a baphomet, a true believer in the ideals of the Sabbath, who valued the "purity of youth" — this sort of poor treatment was something she could never turn a blind eye to. And so Lucella, taking her own primary objective into account, decided to give Mimiru a "gift."
  737.  
  738. The tentacles smoothly withdrew from Mimiru's mouth. Mimiru coughed faintly, as if choking on the inrush of air. Her eyes... were still clouded. She seemed no longer to be looking at Lucella. No, it was more probable that she was no longer even aware of "looking." It was Lucella who had made that happen. In order to release Mimiru's heart, she had scraped away its protective coat of willpower.
  739.  
  740. "...It must have been hard. I bet you wanted to scream. It wouldn't even surprise me if you hated yourself, the way you were swung about by a power you never wanted..."
  741.  
  742. Lucella was pouring her mana into Mimiru through the tentacles that linked them. As she did so, a strange red mark was gradually emerging on Mimiru's body. It's outbreak seemed to follow the lines Lucella had traced with her tongue, covering Mimiru's whole body in red as if it were crisscrossed with wounds.
  743.  
  744. "...So, I'll make you forget. You don't need a nightmare like this to be your true self. Bad dreams are for forgetting quickly, and erasing from the depths of your memory..."
  745.  
  746. With a slither, a single tentacle bent low and fixed its aim on a certain part of Mimiru's body. A complicated crest was inscribed around that place, as if Lucella's tongue had crawled over it with particular care.
  747.  
  748. "Now, go back. Go back to before you were born, to a pure, unknowing being."
  749.  
  750. Slither, squelch. With a soft sound almost like a frog jumping into a pond, the tentacle sank towards Mimiru's navel, and, just like that, merged with it, completing the tentacles' encroachment!
  751.  
  752. The pleasure that struck Mimiru's mind just then was overwhelmingly bright, almost like an aurora. The reunion of her flesh and spirit brought with it countless compunded climaxes. Mimiru raised a voiceless cry as warmth burst from her groin. Inside the tentacle diaper, the tentacles were drinking up and taking nourishment from the hot fluid that gushed out along with her obscene nectar.
  753.  
  754. With her spirit and flesh reunited, Mimiru's sight returned. The look she saw on the face of her mortal enemy as her body was rocked by a climax so intense she seemed about to burst and her mind melted with pleasure was...
  755.  
  756. "...Ah..."
  757.  
  758. In a smile that seemed to gently accept her, Mimiru sensed an almost motherly tolerance and an almost fatherly strength. Perhaps it was the mana's influence, but she seemed to see the image of a man's face layered on top of that smile.
  759.  
  760. "...E... El..."
  761.  
  762. A weak voice, murmuring as if in delirium. In it, her true feelings found expression. Once you tried to clear away the wall of adulthood... it turned out to be a surprisingly trivial task.
  763.  
  764. "Then I will teach you to live again. To live as you are, as your heart is."
  765.  
  766. Deep purple tentacles spilled from the magic circle one after another, coiling around Mimiru's body as if to hold her in the afterglow of climax, or else trying to shield her from outside enemies. It was like a tentacle flower blooming in reverse, with Mimiru as its pistil.
  767.  
  768. "Ah... Aha...♪"
  769.  
  770. There was a charmed expression in Mimiru's slowly-shutting eyes. As if in sympathy, the tentacles were sheltering Mimiru within themselves. Even the rustling sound they made as they rubbed against each other no longer seemed unpleasant to her.  On the contrary, it seemed almost like the solicitude of devout knights giving her shelter. Before long, as if to conceal Mimiru, who now looked as peaceful as if she were drifting off to sleep, the tentacle bud closed around her like an inviolable fairy's bower.
  771.  
  772. It was a deep purple plant, or rather a bud, putting down roots into the flagstones. It rose up before Lucella, stretching out roots in accordance with her magic circle and sucking up something from the ground. It was sucking up Lucella's mana and the necessary knowledge to become a monster's family. The immense mana and their way of sucking were transmitting the fundamentals of a monster's way of being to Mimiru through the plant.
  773.  
  774. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. The plant quietly, but powerfully, pulsed. With each pulsation the magic circle around Lucella's navel flickered. The tentacles attached to the roots swelled in time with it, and transmitted that swelling to the bud. It was almost like nutrients being delivered from a mother to a child...
  775.  
  776. "Hee hee... Mmm♪ Now, I'll suck the corruption out of you inside my mana's womb... Then a true 'blessing' can be yours... Aah♪"
  777.  
  778. There was something in Lucella's expression as she murmured and rubbed the area around her magic circle that made on think of a mother's unconditional love...
  779.  
  780. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  781.  
  782. The plant's interior was filled with the ooze secreted by the tentacles, but, mysteriously, Mimiru found no difficulty breathing.
  783.  
  784. It was some time after Mimiru's body had been entirely concealed within the plant that Mimiru's consciousness, which had been blown away by climax, hazily returned. She opened her unfocused eyes just a little... and found herself in the midst of a deep violet darkness. The deep purple tentacles that composed the plant pressed so closely together that no outside light could leak through. Instead...
  785.  
  786. Mimiru's body was glowing dimly. The goo that coated its surface was reacting with Mimiru's mana and emitting a cool, gentle light like a firefly, illuminating the plant's interior. Mimiru was curled into a ball, hugging her knees. Tentacles were clinging tightly to her hands, feet, arms, and legs. The tentacle attached to her navel was putting down roots, as if it was merging with Mimiru. Only a short while before, Mimiru would surely have struggled in panic and disgust, trying to escape at any cost. But now...
  787.  
  788. Mimiru reached out a hand and clasped a tentacle firmly, as if handling a fragile thing. It was as if the tentacles were now precious to her... She, meanwhile, looked almost like a baby waiting peacefully in its mother's belly to be born.
  789.  
  790. The tentacles were crawling further inside Mimiru, making wet, slithering sounds. It was as if they were putting down roots deep, deep into her, eating into her body and mind. Within the space filled with amniotic fluid goo and gentle light, they were strengthening their bond with Mimiru ...A succubus' wing-crowned back; hips; seducing men; an inviting womanhood; an anus; arms and legs for embracing; a brain that considers how to put ever-so-lascivious thoughts into practice... The tentacles were sticking to Mimiru, assimilating with her, and changing her body into something other than human. Her immature body remained as it was, but its posture and mannerisms were steadily taking on a tinge of lewdness. And yet her body was stronger than an ordinary person's, brighter in color, more charming...
  791.  
  792. Here and there on the tentacles attached to Mimiru's body, mysterious swellings were forming. They seemed to be drawing nearer to her with every beat of her heart. Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub... lub-dub!
  793.  
  794. The moment the swellings touched her, they poured into her all at once! The mana-rich fluid that flowed into her veins and circulated throughout her body in the blink of an eye was nourishment for monsters. Inside the plant, she could feel every part of her being stained in monsters' colors. Mimiru now found it a calming sensation.
  795.  
  796. No, not calm. Release. The fluid pouring into her veins was releasing her from all the ties that bound the human Mimiru Miltié. That was peace to her now.
  797.  
  798. The fluid, having circulated through Mimiru's body and arrived at her brain, set to work on her mind and memories. Behind her closed eyelids, past experiences were rising up and vanishing. Only the memories of the time she had spent with Elt were continuing behind her lids.
  799.  
  800. Rising and vanishing, Mimiru's memories.
  801.  
  802. Rising and staying, the time she had passed with Elt.
  803.  
  804. Rising and vanishing, Mimiru's accumulated knowledge.
  805.  
  806. Rising and staying, the words she had exchanged in conversation with Elt.
  807.  
  808. Rising and vanishing, all the feats and praise that had shaped Mimiru, and the calculated self-interest that lay behind them.
  809.  
  810. Rising and staying, her true feelings, secreted in the words she had exchanged with Elt.
  811.  
  812. Then, when Elt had suffused Mimiru in her entirety, the light...
  813.  
  814. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  815.  
  816. "...At last."
  817.  
  818. The plant rooted in the flagstones began to pulse intensely. Lucella lightly stroked its surface, observing its condition with pleasure. Feeling a sense of achievement for the plant, which transmitted delight as it beat out the persistent rhythm of life, she sent mana into the magic circle at her feet once again.
  819.  
  820. Red. Crimson. Shining. The peculiar arabesques inscribed in the magic circle were shining, and the plant was lighting up magnificently from below. There was something wonderful about the phosphorescence it emitted as it as it sucked up and stored mana. If the light of the magic circle had been blue rather than red, the deep violet plant would probably have appeared even more mystical.
  821.  
  822. Lub-dub... Lub-dub... The pulse of the giant bud echoed in the space enclosed by the barrier. And mingled with it, the faint breathing of a sleeper. It was like the buds of the flowers said to exist in Fairyland. The sleeper's breathing made only a slight sound, like the rustling of wings, but it did not escape Lucella's hearing. From those shallow breaths, she sensed that the time of awakening was close at hand.
  823.  
  824. Lucella continued to pour out mana, loudly and clearly reciting an incantation. The bud, which had begun as an ovoid, was now nearly a ball, and the speed of its pulsation was increasing. Softly, its tip began to tremble. Even now it seemed on the verge of opening, almost as if it had been following Mimiru's spirit. There was no need for it to strain anymore, because that was not her desire. Lucella thought that if it had been, that would have been a mistake. As if to embody that thought... she engraved the rune of flowering on the plant's fiber.
  825.  
  826. "Now, be born, awaken, Mimiru Miltié."
  827.  
  828. Slither, squelch...
  829.  
  830. The many-layered bunch of tentacles was slowly beginning to open. The sticky liquid that filled its insides spilled through its gaps, making a gigantic puddle on the ground. In places the goo evaporated and changed into a pink vapor so thick that one could not see one's way through it, filling the air with a sweet fragrance. The tentacles, having opened, were also vaporizing, wrapping Lucella in a dense cloud.
  831.  
  832. From within the tentacle plant, which hissed as it entirely vaporized, a human figure gradually began to come into view. Pink hair, tinged with purple at the tips, gave the joint impressions of vigor and voluptuousness. Soft skin that knew no blemish, gorgeous shoulders, developing breasts, and... soft, supple belly and legs, on which the patterns set down by Lucella glowed crimson. All were sopping wet with goo, emitting a brilliant luster. It seemed as if it would feel pleasant to rub bodies with this one.
  833.  
  834. "...Nm... Aah..."
  835.  
  836. Mimiru blinked her eyes sleepily. She looked at the world around her, shrouded in pink mist, through still-bleary eyes, and discovered a shape approaching her through the fog. It was a girl monster, about the same size as herself, or perhaps a little smaller — a baphomet. Faced with a powerful monster, Mimiru... flashed a brilliant grin.
  837.  
  838. "Mommy...♪"
  839.  
  840. Pat. The baphomet — Lucella — placed a paw on Mimiru's head energetically stroked it. Mimiru, whose expression showed mingled ticklishness and pleasure brought on by the elasticity and softness of the pad and Lucella's exquisite moderation of pressure, filled with love, made as if to dive into the baphomet's characteristically warm, soft fur and hugged her tight.
  841.  
  842. "There, there, Mimiru... How do you feel now?"
  843.  
  844. Stroke. Stroke. Lucella gently rubbed Mimiru's back as if handling a baby. It must have felt good, because Mimiru's embrace became still more forceful. Lucella lightly checked Mimiru, who had pressed her face to Lucella's bosom and was rubbing her cheek against it.
  845.  
  846. "Yes, I know. You're glad and it feels good. Now show a little self-control... Don't pout like that."
  847.  
  848. Lucella looked Mimiru in the eyes, as if to remonstrate with the sullen girl. Their attitudes were almost those of a parent and child related by blood. Except for the flames of lust that filled their eyes. Lucella brought her face close to the still-sullen Mimiru's ear... and by muttering something unintelligible, at last mended Mimiru's ill humor — and revived her careless grin.
  849.  
  850. "—Now, as a maiden, you'll need making up, but..."
  851.  
  852. "It's fine... Look♪"
  853.  
  854. Before Lucella's eyes as she worried what to do about the composition of clothes, Mimiru made tentacles appear without any incantation. They appeared to sprout from Mimiru's back and wrapped up every part of her in the blink of an eye. Then, just like that, she made them alter their appearance in the blink of an eye.
  855.  
  856. "Ah... Aah... Mmm♪ There. Rub there... Yes, like that... Yes...♪"
  857.  
  858. The goo the tentacles secreted as they twined around Mimiru was rendering her sense of touch even more sensitive. Mimiru wriggled every time the silky smooth surfaces of the tentacles, hidden beneath the goo, rubbed her sensitive parts, writhing with stimulating pleasure. When their movements ceased, Mimiru was clad in tentacle clothes that were modeled on her old dress, but gave an obscene impression. At a glance, they looked not unlike a bondage outfit with an open front. Needless to say, every bit of them, even the parts that appeared to be ordinary cloth, were comprised of tentacles, and could be used as surrogate limbs, as well as clothing, at Mimiru's will.
  859.  
  860. Squelch! Squelch! Squelch! The sticky sound coming from inside Mimiru's clothes was her intentionally controlling the tentacles, continuing to violate her own body as Lucella had just done. They were pumping vigorously in and out, in and out of her anus, in particular, as if picking up where its earlier rehearsal had left off. So vigorously that the tentacles were soaked with gleaming intestinal fluid.
  861.  
  862. Either way, all this was merely advance preparations for partaking of the main dish.
  863.  
  864. "...Now this is a surprise. Even I never imagined you would be able to use magic so freely or to birth such impressive specimens..."
  865.  
  866. Although shocked by Mimiru's display of magic, Lucella summoned a giant triangular hat with the face of a black goat affixed to its front — this was the uniform of the Lucella Sabbath — from the air, and gave it to Mimiru. Mimiru took it with a tentacle and set it on her head, making her tentacles intertwine with the hat. That was the moment that Mimiru, the Black Goat Witch, was born.
  867.  
  868. Mimiru, having fully become a witch, brought her hands together in front of her, interlaced her fingers, and struck a pose as if offering prayer. Slithering, the tentacles flooded down her arms to her hands, forming a single object. It was patterned on the wand Mimiru had used when she was a magical girl. In the center of the heart on its tip was a red eye, peculiar to the equipment of the monsters under Deruella's direct command.
  869.  
  870. Tightly grasping the wand, Mimiru agitated the mana within her body. Then...
  871.  
  872. "Come here...♪ Big brother El...♪"
  873.  
  874. She called Elt by the name she had long wanted to call him, and her body and wand shone dazzlingly—!
  875.  
  876. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  877.  
  878. "Huh!? His scent's... gone...?"
  879.  
  880. "—Elt!? Where did her go!?"
  881.  
  882. "Oh? Has little Elt... vanished?"
  883.  
  884. "...He was taken just now... And here I wanted to have Elt's first with the body I received from Lady Deruella..."
  885.  
  886. "Why did this have to happen while we were in an audience!? Hey! Holy Knights, are you al... What!? No one's been here but me...!?"
  887.  
  888. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  889.  
  890. "Oof! What in the world...?"
  891.  
  892. Elt was confused. He had never before found himself in such a strange predicament. After being informed of a monster attack by his fellow soldiers, he had taken his preferred weapon in hand, opened the door of the barracks and gone outside. That much made sense. But why, when he got outside, was there no one else around; not even Instructor Mercè, who ought to have left the barracks with him? And his surroundings... Surely they were the same as always, and yet there was something unnatural about them.
  893.  
  894. Elt saw the scenery that had become familiar to him during his time in the Order of Holy Knights: The bakery that filled the townspeople's bellies; the weapon shop and armor that supplied the knights; the liquor shop to which Instructor Mercè took him, and from which he regularly had to carry her home; and all the other places that Elt frequented or passed by in his daily life. The familiar scene stretched on before his eyes, but... he hardly recognized it in its present state. He had never seen or heard of Lescatié at midday without throngs of passersby and the lively babble of voices.
  895.  
  896. "...In any case, I've got to look for the townsfolk and the other soldiers!"
  897.  
  898. Elt, though caught up in an unusual situation, knew his duty as a member of the Order of Holy Knights. Weapon in hand, he ran through a world devoid of sound. His first duty was to safely evacuate the residents. Following that idea, Elt opened the door of a house and stepped inside... but the sight that met his eyes was certainly not the entrance hall of an ordinary home.
  899.  
  900. It was the interior of Lescatié's highest institution of magic, the College of Sorcery. From the room's structure and layout, Elt could easily guess that he was in a corner of the Great Church Library, said to house "all the gathered knowledge of the world."
  901.  
  902. "H-how did I end up here...?"
  903.  
  904. It might have been due to a distortion in space, but Elt knew nothing of such things. He just told himself to do his duty, and decided to proceed into the College of Sorcery while keeping an eye out for people. After all, in his present circumstances, stopping where he was would not only do him no good, it might actually make things worse.
  905.  
  906. Cluttered books; parchment reports that looked as though they had been written in a hurry; maps, taken from the library only at severe penalty, on which the geography of Lescatié's outlying regions was recorded... All had been left lying on various desks. They appeared to have been used, but when Elt stretched out a hand to touch the books, his fingers found only air.
  907.  
  908. Shocked, he stretched out his hand once more. As before, it met no resistance. Half disbelieving, he tried to touch the desk... and his hand sunk into it with no sensation at all.
  909.  
  910. What in the world...? Elt sensed danger in the peculiarity of the space in which he found himself and seemed close to panicking, but with a few deep breaths he managed to rally. Calmer now, he decided to check the titles of the books he had tried to touch.
  911.  
  912. "...Tacticians' First Principles, The Seven Oaths, Facts and Fictions of the Catastrophist Creed... All books Mimiru recommended to me..."
  913.  
  914. Then he took a look at the unfinished parchments, and... as Elt had guessed, they contained a treatise Mimiru had once boastfully forced him to listen to. She probably meant to present it at the next conference. Only the afterword remained to be written.
  915.  
  916. The instant Elt unsuspectingly touched the loose parchments, a vision rose in his brain.
  917.  
  918. The sepia-toned scene was of a day in the Great Church Library. A lone girl was approaching a desk carrying a large stack of books. It was Mimiru. It must have been terribly heavy labor for a girl of her tender years, but her nearby colleagues made no move to lend a hand. Surely it would not have been so if she had had even a single friend, or if there had been anyone to show concern for her with no thought for their own loss and gain...
  919.  
  920. A man approached her, but it was plain from his face that he was only trying to curry favor with Mimiru. Anyone could see it. Mimiru lightly parried his advances and went on carrying the large stack of books to the desk alone. From an outsider's perspective, Mimiru could hardly fail to appear disagreeable and obstinate, but Elt saw things differently. He vaguely felt that she had no choice.
  921.  
  922. I've seen enough, but...
  923.  
  924. When Elt's consciousness was pulled back from the sepia scenery to the untouchable library, he found that the books, parchment and everything else were vanishing before he could get his bearings. And that wasn't all. Even the Great Library itself was being covered in darkness, which spread from behind Elt...!
  925.  
  926. He had to flee! His feet moved faster than his thoughts, running towards the emergency exit beside the return slot. Hurry! Faster! Faster! Still clutching his weapon, Elt through open the emergency exit and slipped through.
  927.  
  928. Beyond the door was a room of strangely vivid colors, predominantly reds. The closet overflowed with clothes covered in frilly decorations, and dolls modeled after various animals lay carelessly scattered about. Trophies and Awards bestowed by the state lay abandoned among them, practically buried.
  929.  
  930. It didn't take Elt long to figure out that this was Mimiru's room. As before, his body passed straight through the stuffed animals, the bed, and everything else. He didn't know why, but perhaps he had somehow lost his way and strayed into that sort of world.
  931.  
  932. Elt moved around the room with no regard for the positions of objects in space, like a character in debug mode. As he wandered, a teddy bear a size or two smaller than the other stuffed animals caught his eye. It was more frayed at the seams than any of the others, one of its eyes had come loose, and the other had been replaced with a pearl-yellow, four-holed button.
  933.  
  934. Elt stretched out a hand to the doll, the most disparate object in the room... and the world turned sepia.
  935.  
  936. Again...
  937.  
  938. Mimiru lay face down on the bed, pushing something against her ears. Her expression was gradually becoming suffused with despair and sorrow. She was crying while trying not to make a sound. There was no sound in the sepia vision, but Elt still felt as though he could hear Mimiru's sobs.
  939.  
  940. I wonder what she could have heard...
  941.  
  942. Weapon in hand, he made to grasp the doorknob and leave the room... but he passed through that too. Was he locked in? Elt was growing impatient, but when, on the off chance, he tried knocking, neither the light wooden sound of the door, nor even its touch met his hand.
  943.  
  944. Elt passed his whole body through the door like that. Directly beyond it was the living room, the for happy family gatherings. It was really an unbelievable arrangement of rooms, but Elt did his best to ignore it. Instead, he focused on... Mimiru's parents, conversing right in front of him.
  945.  
  946. There was her father, boorishly ranting as he reclined amid a litter of empty bottles and opened yet another expensive drink in spite of his bright red face.
  947.  
  948. There was her mother, futilely adorned with cosmetics and jewels. She was noncommittally warding off her husband's foolish suggestions, but making no attempt to put a stop to them.
  949.  
  950. He could not tell what they were saying in this soundless place, but he could easily guess from the reaction he had witnessed a moment before that their words meant sorrow and despair to Mimiru.
  951.  
  952. If this is what her parents are like, no wonder she can't depend on them...
  953.  
  954. Mimiru's parents disappeared from view with the conclusion of the sepia reminiscence, and a new door formed beyond where they had been. Then, from behind Elt, the darkness resumed its approach. Darkness that blackly suffused everything, as if it were trying to engulf Elt along with the room...
  955.  
  956. Still clutching his weapon, Elt leapt through the door into the next area.
  957.  
  958. It was the royal palace. In the past, he had occasionally accompanied Wilmarina here to play with the fourth princess, Francisca, but the place he was in now was different. He was sure he had never set foot in this part of the palace before.
  959.  
  960. Come to think of it, Mimiru did say she's involved in the Order of Holy Knights' operations...
  961.  
  962. Elt had heard that Mimiru used a conference room in a corner of the royal palace when she was deciding on operational timetables and drawing up estimates of the materials that would be needed to commence battle. If that was true, did Mimiru come here often...?
  963.  
  964. First of all, I've got to figure out a way to get out of here...
  965.  
  966. Elt was now in a corridor. He was probably meant to go into one of the rooms branching off it. Which meant, he supposed, that he would have to try the doors one by one. That idea, however, was immediately refuted.
  967.  
  968. "...What? A wall?"
  969.  
  970. When Elt tried to approach the first door, an invisible wall blocked his way. It had the feel of konjac jelly without the moisture, and showed no sign of giving way when Elt pushed against it, or even when he slashed at it with his weapon. If he could not go this way, it followed that there was only one door he could take. Maybe he ought to consider this good luck. Or maybe...
  971.  
  972. Thinking about it won't get me anywhere. I've got no choice now.
  973.  
  974. Shaking his head, Elt went to open the door... then pitched forward and tumbled inside. He had forgotten that doors and doorknobs were meaningless here.
  975.  
  976. When he reoriented himself and looked around, he found that he was in a simple-looking room with a round table set in its center. A map of the continent adorned the wall to the right of the door as one entered. A number of arrows marked on it probably represented established routes of advance and retreat. Of course, there was no certainty they would be used if it did come to war...
  977.  
  978. The only thing on the table was a single operations report. It probably marked Mimiru's usual seat. Touch that... and he was back to the world of sepia.
  979.  
  980. This time, it seemed Mimiru was expounding on the flaws of and possible improvements to an operation based on the materials provided to her. The sight of Mimiru, sometimes circling a relevant passage with a quill pen here, sometimes drawing attention to the lack of necessary funds there, was fresh to Elt. Seeing is believing, as the saying goes.
  981.  
  982. The reactions of the higher ups, however, were rather unfavorable. There were those who offered compliments, but even Elt could tell that they were merely superficial. However ideal the plan, if it did not suit these people, it would not be adopted. He did not like it, but this was how the "real world" was.
  983.  
  984. Mimiru's misfortune was that she had caught a glimpse of that world too soon, been forced to immerse herself in it, and even then relegated to the role of a wildcard without patron or supporters. Of course, even Elt could easily tell that most of the people in attendance at this meeting were eminent figures.
  985.  
  986. ...So, they've been trying to use Mimiru to serve their own selfishness, egotism and vanity...
  987.  
  988. Elt was alone in the world of restored color, recalling the scenes he had witnessed.
  989.  
  990. Even in the College of Sorcery, Mimiru was alone.
  991.  
  992. Even in her own home, Mimiru was alone.
  993.  
  994. She had no supporters.
  995.  
  996. There was no one... who understood her.
  997.  
  998. ...Almost like an orphan. No, maybe even worse than that.
  999.  
  1000. At any rate, there was no one she could rely on. Not even if she did have the strength and the brains to overcome her environment.
  1001.  
  1002. An obstinate girl. An overreaching child. That was how Elt had assessed her. But it wasn't so much that she was overreaching as it was that she had to overreach.
  1003.  
  1004. If she had been normal, would she have escaped being placed in this horribly lonely situation?
  1005.  
  1006. In Mimiru's surroundings, the "talent" that had been bestowed on Mimiru by the gods, by the heavens, had become a "poison" that ate away at her. Perhaps her ostentatious displays of that talent had been a message — a plea that she wanted to be freed of that poison...?
  1007.  
  1008. The approaching blackness worried Elt. It had already drawn to near for him to flee.
  1009.  
  1010. "...Hm? Damn!"
  1011.  
  1012. It wasn't like it had been before. The conference room itself was crumbling away. Blackness, pitch blackness, was blotting it out. He could no longer even see the next door. At last the ceiling was darkness, the walls were darkness, the floor was darkness, and...
  1013.  
  1014. He felt like he was floating.
  1015.  
  1016. "Huh...? Aaahh!"
  1017.  
  1018. As soon as he became aware of that sensation, his body began falling towards hell...
  1019.  
  1020. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  1021.  
  1022. "...Mmm... Aah... Aah...♪"
  1023.  
  1024. He could hear a voice from far away. It came to him from above the surface of his consciousness, as if through water. There was something bewitching in its tones, but more than that... it sounded childlike. It caught on something in Elt's mind, as if he remembered hearing it before...
  1025.  
  1026. He did not know how far he had fallen, but the fact that he could think this clearly probably meant that he was still alive. If so, he ought to be able to wake up.
  1027.  
  1028. "...Hm...?"
  1029.  
  1030. When he awoke, he was at the base of the clock tower, one of Lescatié's most famous tourist destinations. But now a strange plant had put down roots in it, and the hands, which ought to have been perfectly straight, were obscenely twisted, shaped almost like succubi tails. He was still alone, of course, but the figures he could see just a short distance away were those of women pinning men down or in the act of performing open air sex.
  1031.  
  1032. When he shifted his gaze back to look ahead of him, he saw a pink-haired girl being violated by tentacles. No, she practically begging, letting the tentacles that sprouted from the ground and held her aloft violate her as they pleased... but not permitting them to enter the precious spot between her legs.
  1033.  
  1034. "Ah! Nnh. Aahhn♪"
  1035.  
  1036. The tentacles were brushing her nipples, which stood erect on her immature breasts. Numerous cilia sprouting from their undersides firmly strummed her teats, plastering every last tiny crevice with goo. From time to time sucker-shaped tentacles stimulated them as well, making as if to chew on them. All the while she was drooling and demanding "More, more!"
  1037.  
  1038. Tentacles were running all over her body. Several of diverse shapes and sizes, their tips covered in irregular bumps, had intruded so far into her anus that it looked as if her rectum might burst. Her body leapt magnificently every time the tentacles gouged into her intestines, beckoning them still further inside her.
  1039.  
  1040. Other tentacles that sometimes thrust into her mouth poured a sweet liquid which combined the properties of a stamina tonic and an aphrodisiac inside her, healing her throat and restoring her stamina. The effects of the fluid turned even the stimulation of the tentacles, which would have torn her apart had she been an ordinary girl, into an almost maddening pleasure.
  1041.  
  1042. The tentacles between her thighs merely clung there, caressing her so as not to break her hymen. While she endured the desire for her labia to be penetrated, the pleasure brought about by this fully-automated masturbation welled up in her, and pushed her body past the peak of climax...!
  1043.  
  1044. "Mmnnnaaaaahhh♪♪♪♪♪"
  1045.  
  1046. The tentacles could not completely absorb the flood of love juice that overflowed from her groin. It spilled out around them and dripped to the ground. New tentacles sprouted from the spots where it fell and bent over her, trying to decide what part of her they ought to caress. At the same time, she was making the old tentacles evaporate into a pink mist.
  1047.  
  1048. With more earsplitting moans, she climaxed again, and again, and again. All the while her love juices poured out like water from a sprinkler or a watering can, shrouding her body in pink mist and giving birth to more fresh tentacles, which she made assault her afresh...
  1049.  
  1050. After her umpteenth climax, her body lowered and she alighted on the ground. As she did so, the tentacles all vanished, changing into a pink mist of unusual thickness. The mist, which carried a sweet, strawberry scent, scattered throughout the area around the base of the clock tower, filling it to the brim. Still basking in the afterglow of climax, she — Mimiru — turned to face Elt, who was rooted the ground with shock, with a vacant grin.
  1051.  
  1052. "Aah...♪ Good morning, big brother! I mean, El♪"
  1053.  
  1054. "L-little... Mimiru...?"
  1055.  
  1056. Elt could not believe that Mimiru, a cornerstone of Lescatié's military power, was standing before him as a witch, and in such an immodest guise.
  1057.  
  1058. "That's right♪"
  1059.  
  1060. The rational, somehow strained manner Mimiru had always displayed in the barracks was completely gone, replaced with an honest — and yet dissolute — grin unbefitting her age. Not the least shadow of her former manner could be seen.
  1061.  
  1062. With a sucking sound, Mimiru's tentacles detached from her private parts. Her tender bud, which not even her tentacles had yet entered, was already swollen and plump, dripping goo mingled with love juices to the ground. Then, eyes upturned, she began to plead with Elt.
  1063.  
  1064. "Big brother... play with me♪"
  1065.  
  1066. Drip, drip, drip. Love juices were flowing from her unclad groin, and where they touched the ground new tentacles sprung up one after another. Elt suspect what Mimiru meant by "play," but all he could do was helplessly back away. No, he couldn't even do that. He hadn't the strength.
  1067.  
  1068. "Come on, El... I got really, re-ally messy just to be ready for you...♪"
  1069.  
  1070. It terrified Elt that Mimiru could call that almost insanely fierce intercourse "getting ready," but he did not move. He was sinking slowly to the ground, as if all his sinews had gone slack...
  1071.  
  1072. Mimiru sighed, coquettishly. Her breath was colorless and transparent, but it nonetheless contained an aphrodisiac more concentrated than the pink mist. Perhaps that was why Elt was unable to stop the bulge slowly beginning to rise at his groin.
  1073.  
  1074. While noisily licking her index finger, Mimiru touched two fingers of her other hand to her groin and spread them wide. Her , which, even though she had become a monster, had never been used, proffered innumerable folds of pink flesh simultaneously possessed both the freshness of a young maiden and the obscenity of a whore. Copious love juices were overflowing from deep inside her. In place of the usual sour smell, a fragrance like distilled roses struck the still-immobile Elt full in the face, blunting his thoughts and reflexes.
  1075.  
  1076. "Aah...♪ Come on... Give me lots of huggles... Lots and lots♪"
  1077.  
  1078. As Mimiru spoke, Elt, who had conveniently regained control of both his arms, tried to distance himself from Mimiru. He raised himself up on his hands and pushed himself backwards, heedless of the scraping flagstones. His course, however, was cut short by tentacles that had sprung up behind him without his noticing and now plastered his back with syrupy goo. He cringed at the chill, like giant tongues trying to crawl into his clothes, but he soon realized that things would not end there.
  1079.  
  1080. Elt could feel an oozing pain, an ache, slowly spreading from the places the goo touched him. At the same time, he felt a strange sense of release from his back, as if some sort of barrier there had been removed. Then Elt realized what was really happening — the goo was rendering his skin more sensitive and simultaneously dissolving the cloth that covered it! Turning the tables was now completely out of the question!
  1081.  
  1082. Elt could not tell whether or not Mimiru was aware of his growing desperation. She generated another tentacle from her back, brought its tip close to her face, and rubbed her cheek against it with a dreamy expression, the way one might treat a precious child or a cute animal.
  1083.  
  1084. "Doesn't it feel great, El...? Scraping against the ground like that hurts, so I made it all slippery for you♪"
  1085.  
  1086. "M-Mimiru, stop..."
  1087.  
  1088. Mimiru could not tell whether Elt meant the way she was rubbing the tentacle, or the way she was cornering him.
  1089.  
  1090. "...Why?"
  1091.  
  1092. "What do you mean, 'why'...?"
  1093.  
  1094. There was something in Mimiru's expression as she returned his question with her head tilted and eyes slightly upturned that shocked Elt. But, though bewildered, he maintained control of himself, took a deep breath, and tried to come up with an answer. The sweet fragrance jolting Elt's brain was disarranging his thoughts, but he bore up with sheer willpower, and...
  1095.  
  1096. "W-well... Mimiru, you're still..."
  1097.  
  1098. "Age has nothing to do with it♪"
  1099.  
  1100. Elt froze with his mouth hanging open. What he had wanted to say had been anticipated and rejected. Of course, it was the answer he should have expected from a monster. Mimiru was still obstinate, and her obstinacy had blocked off his only remaining course of action.
  1101.  
  1102. As Mimiru drew nearer, the pink mist that hung in the air all round grew thicker, and the sweet fragrance grew stronger to match it. The almost choking vapor was eroding Elt's ability to think as though scraping away at it with a file.
  1103.  
  1104. "Even if... it doesn't matter to you... I..."
  1105.  
  1106. "Don't worry♪ You'll enjoy it too, big brother...♪"
  1107.  
  1108. "I told you... That's... a problem..."
  1109.  
  1110. "It's fine♪ Mimiru's going to make you feel great♪"
  1111.  
  1112. Monsters' valued centered on pleasure or the lack thereof, and humans who became monsters acted on the same principles. Even Elt knew that. But actually speaking with someone he knew who had become a monster drove home just how striking that tendency could be. He knew that, but knowing did nothing to help him think of a way to make it through this predicament.
  1113.  
  1114. His body was growing heavier by degrees. Elt was assailed by the sensation that he himself was gradually changing into something else. But at the same time, his ability to think about such things continued to be stolen away. Then...
  1115.  
  1116. "Big brother...♪ El...♪"
  1117.  
  1118. Mimiru finally caught hold of Elt. Aphrodisiac-laced pink mana-mist was suffusing every nook and cranny of Elt's body and rendering him unable to move. Elt felt a scorching heat deep inside his immobile body. Unable even to lift his weapon, he was practically a carp on the chopping block.
  1119.  
  1120. "Hee Hee...♪ Oh Elll...♪"
  1121.  
  1122. Straddling his hips, Mimiru kissed Elt, who had been robbed of the strength to resist. While wetly pressing her lips to his, she tried to slip her tongue inside him. Elt grit his teeth in an effort to prevent her intrusion, but a strange, sudden chill on his back diverted his attention, and he ended up allowing Mimiru's tongue to enter in spite of himself. The source of the chill was the tentacle that had plastered him with goo before and now licked up his back again.
  1123.  
  1124. "...Nnh... Mmm...♪"
  1125.  
  1126. Mimiru's tongue, having accomplished the invasion of Elt's mouth, was ravishing his insides as it pleased. It was dancing passionately in Elt's mouth — licking along the front of his teeth, coating his gums with drool, conscientiously ravishing the backs of his teeth as if trying to scrape them free of plaque, twining itself around his own tongue, and tasting the saliva that built up underneath it. Elt's tongue, captured by Mimiru's, was forced to follow her lead and join in the lascivious dance.
  1127.  
  1128. That tentacles that formed Mimiru's clothes oozed out a large quantity of thick goo. It dripped onto Elt's clothes in obedience to gravity and immediately ate into the fabric, becoming a lotion that covered him from chest to hips. As an ache like static electricity spread over Elt's skin, his member was liberated from its cloth fetters and pointed skyward as if to announce its presence.
  1129.  
  1130. Once the lotion had left Elt as naked as the day he was born, Mimiru began to rub her body up and down against Elt's in time to the movements of her tongue. Elt's burly chest was now so sensitive that every brush of Mimiru's breasts, erogenous zones in their own right, felt like an electric shock. A somehow impatient sensuality was welling up between them. Mimiru next began to rub her private parts against Elt's tempered abs. She felt her crotch moisten with every rub of her swollen clitoris against his hard muscles.
  1131.  
  1132. Elt, meanwhile was still trying to resist. He hovered on the threshold between confusion and pleasure. The passionate dance of their tongues had begun to ignite the lust that lay dormant deep inside him, and Mimiru's masturbatory rubbing was pouring oil on that flame. Added to that, the mist that suffused his body had rendered it a minefield, and he could not say what might set it off. He still had not crossed the final line, but he had no way of knowing what would happen next. After all... his mind, thoughts grinding to a halt, was getting into a state in which it would be quite capable of giving him the go ahead for intercourse with Mimiru. And judging by the thing standing tall between his legs, Elt's body was already in the mood.
  1133.  
  1134. Mimiru traced curves and spirals on his skin, nearly touching his meat pole and giving him intermittent pleasure, but she still showed no sign of breaking off her kiss. Saliva was pouring thickly from Mimiru's mouth into his. To Elt, it tasted like straight gum syrup being poured down his throat, so sweet that he could hardly believe it was a product of the human body. At the same time, Mimiru was also slurping up Elt's saliva. His mouth was entirely coated in Mimiru's drool, as sweet as the air around them, and inside it her tongue danced and danced. It's movements made him think in turns of a passionate tango, a brisk cha-cha, and a classical waltz at the royal court.
  1135.  
  1136. Without Elt noticing, both their bodies had left the flagstones and were now floating about thirty centimeters off the ground. In that position, Elt could feel the weight and warmth of Mimiru's body even more intensely than before. Mimiru stretched out her arms and wrapped her hands around Elt's back. Just like that, not even moving, she squeezed him tight, tight, pressing her skin close against his. She wrapped both her legs around him as well, and now they were in the posture Mimiru had first called "huggles."
  1137.  
  1138. Gradually, Elt noticed the movements of her hips were stopping. He thought that her tongue had also grown sluggish in its movements, as if it was tired from dancing...
  1139.  
  1140. Having stopped kissing for the moment, the two shifted their postures and gazed into each other's eyes. Their faces looked just short of locking together in another tryst, but they held back and the strands of drool stretched between their lips ended up dripping back into Elt's mouth.
  1141.  
  1142. "El..."
  1143.  
  1144. Mimiru slid her body towards Elt's hips. Her smooth skin glided over his sensitive flesh in a single motion, imparting a ticklish sensation almost as if he had been brushed with a feather in a particularly sensitive spot. Even as the feeling spread, Mimiru's buttocks, grown slightly more plump as a result of her monstrous transformation, stopped just where Elt's enlarged member would come to rest between them.
  1145.  
  1146. "...So big♪"
  1147.  
  1148. Mimiru's chest throbbed at the size of the thing she could sense through the feel of its impact on her the soft flesh of her bottom, but still she did not invite it inside. She only pressed her face against Elt's burly chest and rubbed her cheek against it as she clung to him with both hands and both feet, as if her aim was merely to feel his presence.
  1149.  
  1150. Mimiru breathed deep over and over, imbibing Elt's scent. The scent of her dear, dear "big brother." It seemed like just the smell of him was enough to make her feel at ease. To Elt, the feeling of Mimiru's sighs swaying the hair on his chest added to the aphrodisiac perfume that her whole body exuded was unbearably tantalizing. He could feel the semen accumulating inside his scrotum. His brain, now thoroughly ravished by the mist, began to issue commands. It ordered him to pierce the girl before him with the hardness between his legs.
  1151.  
  1152. Elt refused the order, his willpower hanging on my a single thread. And yet, somehow, a command reached his still immobile arms. Forward, forward, forward...
  1153.  
  1154. "Ah...! Huggles...♪"
  1155.  
  1156. Mimiru's clothes were really just disguised tentacles, but those tentacles were made of Mimiru's mana, which had grown so great that her body could barely contain it due to her rebirth as a witch, and she could make them materialize or dematerialize at will. At present Mimiru was anticipating intercourse with Elt as her main dish, and was making her tentacles appear superficially clothing "-like." Of course, they had shown their true for a just a moment when they had dripped goo onto Elt's chest and when they had plastered it on his back...
  1157.  
  1158. What Elt was now embracing was, therefore, Mimiru's plain, unadulterated body. He had sense her delicacy and immaturity ever since he had laid eyes on her, but embracing and being embraced by her like this forced him to recognize them afresh. Her slender arms seemed as if even a common, nameless soldier like him might break them with little effort. What did fate have in store for her, unable to escape by force if she was pushed down...? Probably nothing good.
  1159.  
  1160. "...So warm...♪"
  1161.  
  1162. Direct contact with Elt's body heat made Mimiru narrow her eyes. While rubbing her cheek against his body, she was hugging him tighter, squeezing their skins even closer together. Drip, drip, love juices flowed from her secret place onto Elt's skin, perhaps from joy. Elt could feel her tiny asterisk squirm greedily through his rigid member.
  1163.  
  1164. As the pair held each other tight, all but a portion of the tentacles surrounding them were slowly dissolving into pink mist. Mimiru was unconsciously making them change create a world where she could see nothing but Elt, Elt could see nothing but her, and no one looking into the cloud from outside could see either of them — a world just for the two of them. The composition of the mist was gradually making their skins more sensitive. Both their bodies had become so sensitive that, if they had been ordinary people, even the lightest tap on the heel would have sent pleasure running through them like an electric shock. Mimiru's movements, which looked like gentle flirting, were actually stimulating them both to the heights of sexual pleasure.
  1165.  
  1166. Every time Mimiru let out a long, mana-laced breath, the obscene fragrance it carried did a little more to dissolve Elt's will. Sweat flowed freely from Mimiru's skin, and as it dripped and clung to Elt's body, as it evaporated into an obscene perfume with a slightly sour scent, something was building up in Elt's body, making his rigid member protrude still further.
  1167.  
  1168. Elt, aware of Mimiru's past, no longer had any thought of pulling away from her as she made a show of yielding herself to him from the bottom of her heart. No matter if the face that now looked up into his wore the vacant grin of a monster out for sex.
  1169.  
  1170. Rather, Elt was actually beginning to hope for that grin. He wanted to savor her gorgeous body, to caress her slender arms, to grope her unripe chest, to lick her perfectly plump thighs — then he wanted to stick it in her, and cum inside her to his heart's content. In the toils of Mimiru's tongue foreplay, and now her almost melting embrace, Elt's body was already changing into that of an incubus. And as if to match his body... his will too gave in.
  1171.  
  1172. "Ah... Nnh♪"
  1173.  
  1174. Elt turned Mimiru around so that it looked like he was embracing her from behind. Or maybe like he was helping a small child to urinate. He accepted even the shame of this posture as a spice to enhance their play, and began to slide his rigid member back and forth along the crack in Mimiru's bottom as her grin broadened. The sweat and goo that wet her posterior lubricated his movement, and the raised veins on his pole rubbed Mimiru's asterisk with an unpredictable rhythm.
  1175.  
  1176. Slick, squish, squish, squelch... His rigid meat stroked her, slowly at first, as if growing accustomed to the act, and then teasing her with gradually increasing speed. Mimiru was growing desperately impatient, and her anus flapped open and closed almost like it was breathing. "Now? Now?" it seemed to plead. Sometimes a vein on Elt's pole rubbed against it just as it opened, and Mimiru's gave a start. But even that was not enough, not enough, not enough... not nearly enough to satisfy her.
  1177.  
  1178. Elt's pole momentarily halted, almost as if it was taking aim at something. Even as Mimiru's thoughts flashed out a joyful conclusion — Squelch!
  1179.  
  1180. Splash.
  1181.  
  1182. As the moment Mimiru had longed for finally arrived, her crotch slackened, and released a stream of golden liquid onto the mass of tentacles undulating on the ground below. She felt her spirit pierce the heavens as she let out a voiceless cry of joy. Elt's spear of flesh had pierced her asshole! That hole, intended by nature only for excretion, had been trained and cultivated through Mimiru's tentacle masturbation, but even so Elt felt big, hot, and hard inside her. It's size seemed to dominate her insides, causing her body to twitch and drool to drip from the corners of her mouth.
  1183.  
  1184. Squish!
  1185.  
  1186. "Aaahh!"
  1187.  
  1188. Squelch!
  1189.  
  1190. "Aah-aaahh!"
  1191.  
  1192. In, out, in, out. With each thrust a sound of flesh striking flesh, reminiscent of spanking, echoed inside the barrier!
  1193.  
  1194. Elt had no voice. He could not have cried out even if he had wanted to. The well-tilled flesh of Mimiru's ass embraced his member, and her sphincter pressed down on his shaft, intensifying the obscene caress. When he pulled out, her tight flesh squeezed tight as if to detain him, conscientiously rubbing it from frenulum to glans. When he thrust in, the pressure of the flesh that had been trying to stop him a moment before turned his whole foreskin inside-out and polished the sensitive flesh beneath it. The pleasure it imparted had robbed Elt of the power of speech. She had all the freshness of a young girl and all the softness of a mature woman. And if this was her anus, what would her vagina be like...?
  1195.  
  1196. "Aaahhn♪ Big Brother♪ Elll♪♪"
  1197.  
  1198. Splish splash. Urine, not entirely expelled during her earlier climax, was gushing from her slackened crotch and falling to the ground. Mimiru wriggled in embarrassment. The whole of Elt's pole received an intense suction with each twist of her body, and at last began to twitch, shiver and tremble.
  1199.  
  1200. Mimiru's eyes opened wide in delight. She twisted her body as if to urge Elt on, and he responded by thrusting his rigid member in and out of her as if trying to gouge out her insides. Elt's pole, covered in goo, and sweat, and intestinal fluid, and other things besides, shone rainbow-colored as the light struck it through the mist. The thick semen produced in his scrotum was being loaded into the base of his shaft. It was surging towards the tip like raging billows, further engorging his rigid member!
  1201.  
  1202. "Aaahhnn♪ This is it♪ This is El's cummm♪♪♪"
  1203.  
  1204. The large volume of semen Elt released was flowing the wrong way up Mimiru's anus in one burst, as if trying to fill her intestines to the brim! Mimiru arched her back and screamed in response to the obscene stimulation being pumped into her dirty hole and working its way up through her digestive system. Her greedy ass still kept a firm grip on Elt's member, and did not leave enough of a gap for even a single drop of semen to escape. She was making full use of her sphincter in an effort to draw out even the semen that remained stuck in his urethra.
  1205.  
  1206. Now that Elt had become an incubus, the volume of semen his member poured into Mimiru far surpassed that any human could produce in a single ejaculation. Even as the force of the flow declined, he continued to release the fundament of monster life into her with a noise like a pump sucking up water and then spewing it out again...
  1207.  
  1208. After his ejaculation had subsided, Elt slowly pulled his member out of Mimiru's asshole. He could feel no physical exhaustion even after thrusting so fiercely and expelling so much seed. His meat-stick retained its hardness and could probably ejaculate several more times without a rest. The stimulation of the greedy walls of flesh that clung almost regretfully to his departing member sent shudders through his body.
  1209.  
  1210. "...Aah... Big brother, my tummy's so full... of your cum...♪♪"
  1211.  
  1212. As soon as Elt completely removed his member, Mimiru's anus shut tight, keeping every last drop of semen inside her. She could not possibly be pregnant, but her belly was so swollen that one might be excused for thinking so. In reality, of course, it was full to bursting with Elt's semen.
  1213.  
  1214. But that swollen belly was rapidly shrinking back to its original size. A keen listener might have been able to detect a sound like intense suction coming from inside her. Mimiru touched both her hands to her cheeks and licked her lips, almost as if she was savoring a flavor. If there had been anyone there besides Elt, they would surely have sensed her mana spike.
  1215.  
  1216. "...Mmm... Delicious... El, your semen is... so tasty...♪"
  1217.  
  1218. Mimiru had used the tentacles she cultivated within herself to turn every last drop into mana and absorb it. Her body floated lightly in the air of its own accord. Elt's body floated too, so that he was face to face with her. The tentacles, which already saturated the ground, suddenly grew upwards to reach them.
  1219.  
  1220. Mimiru slowly leaned back until her flushed face pointed to the sky, savoring the aftertaste of anal sex. She rose slowly until Elt had a clear view of her crotch.
  1221.  
  1222. "Mm... Aah...♪ El...♪"
  1223.  
  1224. Just like that, Mimiru brought two fingers of her left hand parallel to her slit, then spread them to either side. Her plump, swollen labia parted slowly, almost like the opening of a massive gate, disclosing the way to the shangri-la concealed within.
  1225.  
  1226. The moment those juicy, pink inner walls met his eyes, an incredible sensation welled up within Elt. It was almost as if Mimiru's private parts were beckoning to him — or, to put it less pleasantly, as if they were pulling him in. It was a sensation with the force of a compulsion in it. Elt felt as if something in his brain was telling him that it wanted to become one with that place, wanted to be engulfed by it, never wanted to part with it.
  1227.  
  1228. Unsteadily, almost like a man who has entered the realm of a jinn of the jar, or laid eyes on the open vulva of a charybdis, staggering, reeling, he was drawing nearer to Mimiru, his member hard and throbbing. There was no pre-cum. That was probably due to Elt's instincts as an incubus, which told him to pour everything into Mimiru.
  1229.  
  1230. "El...♪"
  1231.  
  1232. "Come to me," she did not say. She was already unconsciously making Elt do so. Approaching unsteadily, like a bee drawn to a lascivious young flower, Elt's swollen member... slowly squeezed itself inside her.
  1233.  
  1234. "...Mimiru..."
  1235.  
  1236. Faintly, blushingly, Mimiru nodded to Elt, who called her name as if trying to make certain.
  1237.  
  1238. "...Come to me...♪ Big brotherrr...!"
  1239.  
  1240. With a little "squish," Mimiru's hymen broke almost too easily. But Elt did not stop moving, and Mimiru did not want him to. They both thrust their hips forward in perfect sync. He to stab his member ever deeper inside her, and she to welcome it in.
  1241.  
  1242. A sense of pressure that was painful, yet pleasant, assailed Mimiru's body. Her immature body might be accepting it, but Elt's spear of incubus flesh was really too hard, too long, and too thick for her. It filled the path to her innermost sacred citadel in an instant, and was still driving deeper inside her.
  1243.  
  1244. Elt, on the other hand, was tasting the same sensation with his member. Monster or not, Mimiru's vagina, unlike her carefully cultivated anus, had never entertained a guest, and was still small and tight. He could thrust deep inside her in one motion, but the stiff walls of her passage, which had not yet had time to soften, were tightly squeezing Elt's whole member. As each pressed against the other, their gazes met. As if to confirm their mutual pain...
  1245.  
  1246. Slip... Squelch!
  1247.  
  1248. "Aahn!"
  1249.  
  1250. Elt pulled back his hips, then drove them home once more! He thrust with a force that somehow seemed gentler than his earlier movement, softly massaging the flesh Mimiru's vaginal passage. It seemed that, being a monster, the loss of her virginity produced no blood, but it did produce a large volume of love juices to serve as lubricant.
  1251.  
  1252. Elt's member was now being rubbed even more forcefully. A pressure generated not by muscular power, but by its own thickness was being scoured by the compressed folds of Mimiru's vagina so forcefully that they seemed likely to scrape off even the smegma stuck underneath his foreskin. At the same time, as the folds of flesh, their number increased by Mimiru's monstrous transformation, softened, they were becoming countless tongues that incessantly assaulted him...! Frenulum, glans, meatus... Wet with love-dew, they licked, rubbed and wrapped themselves around every particularly sensitive part. A pleasure many times greater than masturbation ran through Elt with every stroke.
  1253.  
  1254. "Aahn♪ Inside... So big...♪"
  1255.  
  1256. Mimiru's vagina was being plowed into softness, and as it loosened Elt's pole was swelling as if adapting to it. The heavy feeling of his member filling her insides, flaunting its overwhelming presence, caused Mimiru's private parts to rapidly moisten and begin to seek him even more greedily than they had before. "More," they seemed to be saying, "I want you to thrust more!"
  1257.  
  1258. What moved in answer to that wish was not Elt — it was the tentacles!
  1259.  
  1260. "Nngh!?"
  1261.  
  1262. "Aaah♪♪"
  1263.  
  1264. The tentacles accepted Mimiru's feelings and forced their way into Elt's asshole as well as Mimiru's own! The practiced Mimiru accommodated them without difficulty. Elt, who was only now losing his anal virginity, managed to accept them without tearing his anus due to the compensation of his incubus body.
  1265.  
  1266. "—Nngaah!"
  1267.  
  1268. "Aaahn♪♪"
  1269.  
  1270. Squelch! Squelch! The tentacles thrust into them ceaselessly and without foreplay, as if trying to gouge out their intestines. Moderately-raised bumps and cilia rubbed against their insides, and the goo that covered the tentacles was being gradually absorbed into their bodies through their intestinal walls. The goo was smeared over Elt's entire body, rubbed in, and absorbed. The tentacles' anal stroking transformed it into a febrile heat that spread throughout his body.
  1271.  
  1272. "—Aaaaaaaaahhhng!"
  1273.  
  1274. Hot. As hot as if all the blood in his body had turned to magma. A large quantity of something was being produced inside his body, welling up...! If he didn't expel it somehow, he was sure he would go mad! Expel... Release... Release... essence... seed... into Mimiru... Shoot his seed into Mimiru!
  1275.  
  1276. Elt's thoughts took an incubus-like turn, and as a result... he began to slam his hips into Mimiru with abrupt speed and force! His sexual desires had become linked to his feelings for Mimiru, and both were boiling over all at once.
  1277.  
  1278. "Aahn! Aaah! Aaaaahhh!"
  1279.  
  1280. Pound! Pound! Pound! Elt slammed his hips into Mimiru, beckoned into the forbidden, sacred citadel deep inside a body far smaller than his own. Sweat and goo scattered from both their bodies with every thrust, and the pink mist was growing ever thicker.
  1281.  
  1282. Squish! Squelch! Sploosh! The tentacle dancing in Mimiru's asshole seemed almost to be imitating and magnifying Elt's earlier movements, burying itself in her as it rubbed her pleats and gouged her walls with abandon. Its movements were so fierce the seemed liable to ruin her body, but as a monster she was able to take it all without injury and turn it into pleasure.
  1283.  
  1284. It was the same with Elt. He, with the body of an incubus, was felt pleasure run through him like an electric shock as the tentacles squirmed in his behind. They moved in perfect synchrony with those inside Mimiru, planting the pleasures of the flesh in Elt as they stimulated him.
  1285.  
  1286. Mimiru and Elt, still allowing themselves to be carried away by the impulse of pleasure, thrust their hips together in unison. Their relationship had already gone beyond that of protector and protectee, or big brother and little sister, and, stimulated by the primal lust, older than romantic love, sought by elemental man and woman — no, by male and female animals — they lost themselves in mutual desire. At this moment, the only thing that distinguished them was that one was inserting and the other receiving. No, perhaps not even that. Because even as Mimiru received Elt's member, she was sticking a tentacle into him that ravished his ass so vigorously that it seemed to be trying to gouge it out, beating the goo into bubbles with a wet, sucking sound.
  1287.  
  1288. "Aah! Mimiru! Mimiruuu!"
  1289.  
  1290. "Aaahn♪ Big brother♪ Elll♪"
  1291.  
  1292. They called each other's names, thrusting their hips together with an audible slap, and writhing as they pulled back in order to obtain even greater stimulation. Still more tentacles sprouted from Mimiru's back, and twined about their hips, their chests, and other parts besides, robbing them of their freedom of movement so that they could not draw apart more than the distance required thrust. In spite of that, they were shaking their hips wildly, converting the stimulus the anal tentacles provided directly into motive force, and egging each other on to still greater heights of pleasure!
  1293.  
  1294. Inside Elt, fresh semen was being produced at a rapid pace. It's volume likely already far exceeded that of his ejaculation during anal sex.
  1295.  
  1296. "Mimiruuuuu!"
  1297.  
  1298. "Elllll!"
  1299.  
  1300. Their screams layered over each other. Nothing but skin separated them now.
  1301.  
  1302. It was like a dam bursting. A huge volume of semen flooded out of Elt's member into Mimiru's womb. Mimiru's insides, which ought to have been too small to hold it all, were pushed to their limits, but managed to contain the flow, and although some of the overflow tried to escape into her vagina, but her vaginal walls were greedier than her anus and clung desperately to Elt's gigantic member to prevent its escape.
  1303.  
  1304. Her anus was the same. The tentacles' faux semen, manufactured from the seed she had received from Elt earlier, was pouring into Mimiru with an audible gurgling. It was flowing into her intestines, just like the earlier ejaculation, and further swelling her belly. Elt was the same. The tentacles stuck into him were pouring just as much of their aphrodisiac into him as they were into Mimiru, or perhaps even more, with a violent intensity. The moment the goop entered his intestines it was absorbed in the blink of an eye.
  1305.  
  1306. Then white sperm, reminiscent of a blessing shower, arced from the tentacles surrounding the pair, and painted their bodies and faces a milky white. Whatever regrettably failed to strike them changed at once into pink mist, tempting them into a still denser world...
  1307.  
  1308. The barrier that enveloped the area crumbled with a crack. As it did, the pink mist that had been building up inside the barrier flowed out to cover all Lescatié. Strengthened by their lust, it was now quite capable of turning humans into succubi through inhalation alone. But that did not matter to them now.
  1309.  
  1310. Even after ejecting all it could, Elt's pole remained un-withered, and Mimiru's vagina likewise showed no sign of releasing it. Within Elts scrotum, the production of new semen had already begun. Mimiru, her belly swollen with the huge load of cum she had just received, and still united to Elt, made a "wish" with upturned eyes.
  1311.  
  1312. "More... Let's play more, big brother♪ Let's play with everyone...♪"
  1313.  
  1314. Elt had no reason to refuse as he was now. To grant Mimiru's wish — to embrace her forcefully, to couple with her, and to release his essence into her — would be his pleasure.
  1315.  
  1316. She had said "everyone," so he supposed other monsters would be coming. If that was so, part of him wanted to lie with Mimiru alone, but... if she thought it would be fun, doing it with everyone wouldn't be so bad, either.
  1317.  
  1318. Elt, now fully changed into an incubus, kept his feelings to himself, and thrust into Mimiru to fill her with his ever-more-swollen rigidity.
  1319.  
  1320. ...Because Elt's "play" with Mimiru ultimately included the newly-arrived Wilmarina, Sasha, Primera, and Mercè, and because Mimiru unconsciously invoked a magic circle to transport them all to where Francisca, who had become a roper queen, was, his plight ended up lasting nearly two weeks. During that time, the extremist faction of the Dark Lord's army lead by Deruella turned all the residents of Lescatié into monsters, and while it was said that they permitted a few refugees to escape, the holy nation was no more.
  1321.  
  1322. Thus, the history of Lescatié as a church nation came to an end, and a new monster nation was born.
  1323.  
  1324. ◊ ♦ ◊ ♦ ◊
  1325.  
  1326. A whole year had passed since Lescatié fell at the hands of Deruella and her monsters. There was a certain irony in the fact that the nation which had once been in truth the very incarnation of private ambition even as its rulers preached holiness had in a sense transformed into a land filled to bursting with decadent lusts.
  1327.  
  1328. The babble of voices that could be heard throughout the city sounded cheerful. In a sexual sense.
  1329.  
  1330. The sight of bakeries selling bread and greengrocers vegetables remained as before, but their old wares had given way to fare that was more nutritious. In a sexual sense.
  1331.  
  1332. As for bedding, double beds and larger now appeared more popular than singles, doubtless because they were more convenient for going to bed with a beloved spouse. In a sexual sense.
  1333.  
  1334. It was a monster realm, every aspect of its life suffused with sexuality and managed according to new rules. But the discontent that had been there before was almost nowhere to be seen. In its place was a decadent pleasure that would make most humans grimace, and a warm happiness that they would sometimes find themselves longing for even as they scowled.
  1335.  
  1336. The country was satisfied now, and would likely become even more so. Elt thought idly of such trivialities as he walked alone through the royal palace, now entirely Francisca's, with a box in his hands. Inside was an "Essence Parfait," the favorite of the girl to whose room he was headed. The name had changed, and so had the taste, but she was still fond enough of them to order them delivered. When she ate one, of course, it was with a double spoon.
  1337.  
  1338. "Mimiru, is it alright if I come in...?"
  1339.  
  1340. Naturally, he had to show discretion before entering a lady's room. It would be rude to open the door without warning. If he failed to knock and call out first, he would end up being thrown down and ravished on the spot. Knocking wouldn't change the result, but in terms of the impression given it made all the difference in the world. When Elt knocked on the door this time, however, it creaked open as if to invite him inside.
  1341.  
  1342. There was Mimiru's room, looking just as he had seen it before. Characteristically, it was littered with stuffed animals and dolls, the furniture was all in vivid colors like shocking pink, and the closet overflowed with frills. A childish room. Still, the somehow restless atmosphere that had been there when she was human seemed to have disappeared.
  1343.  
  1344. On the bed, the twin bed on which he and Mimiru had met as lovers many times, lay a present box wrapped in silver paper and tied with a ribbon the color of red plum blossoms. With it was a carefully-written note: "For you, Big Brother El♪"
  1345.  
  1346. "Did Mimiru arrange this? Well, if she went to all the trouble, I suppose I should open it right here."
  1347.  
  1348. After setting the box with the parfait in it on a table, Elt untied the ribbon, carefully undid the wrapping, and lifted the lid of the box.
  1349.  
  1350. "I'll be your present, El♪"
  1351.  
  1352. Inside was Mimiru!
  1353.  
  1354. Elt let out a grunt of surprise as Mimiru leapt from a hiding place he had never expected and pushed him to the ground. He could hardly be blamed for his shock — the present box was far smaller than Mimiru's body. Mimiru flashed a mischievous and grin with just a tinge of shyness at the startled Elt, and announced in a lisping voice:
  1355.  
  1356. "One whole year."
  1357.  
  1358. "Huh?"
  1359.  
  1360. "Lescatié's lasted a whole year now. So, I'll be your anniversary present, El♪"
  1361.  
  1362. Then Mimiru, staring straight at Elt, explained the gist of the mimic play she had planned. Her occasional glances down showed that she was having difficulty keeping her thoughts off Elt's member, which had grown erect the moment she pushed him down. So much so that she almost wanted to be penetrated then and there.
  1363.  
  1364. "You know, El, you've given me lots of presents in the last year. Lots and lo-ots♪
  1365.  
  1366. "But I haven't gotten you anything yet! And I wasn't sure what you'd like, so... I decide to give you me♪
  1367.  
  1368. "I'm yours, big brother So, from now on, we'll be together forever and— Aahn♪"
  1369.  
  1370. Mimiru was not able to finish her speech, which practically amounted to a proposal. The moment she pushed Elt down, the incubus instincts within him switched on. He easily grasped enough of what Mimiru said to understand that Mimiru was offering herself to him as a present because she wanted to be at his side forever.
  1371.  
  1372. That was exactly why Elt, as an incubus, wanted to grant her wish. Because what she wished for was intercourse with him. To satisfy both her and himself without making her lonely, without deceiving her, without hurting her. That was the "present" that Elt, as an incubus, could give her...
  1373.  
  1374. "Aah♪ Here it is So much inside Mimiru♪ So much cummm♪ It's shooting into me, pew, pew♪ Mmm, aah, aaahhn♪"
  1375.  
  1376. Mimiru couldn't count how many times she had received semen into her womb since she became a monster, but as she did so, raising a cry of delight, there was only one thought in her mind.
  1377.  
  1378. Big brother, El, I love you♪
  1379.  
  1380. The End
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